Posts Tagged ‘Kevin Bartlett’

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Warwick Brown, Lola T332 Chev, Riverside 1974 (TEN)

‘WB for 73’ was the T-Shirt catch phrase of Warwick Brown’s team during the 1973 Tasman Series…

The good looking, well heeled young bloke from Wahroonga on Sydney’s North Shore had graduated from the relatively forgiving McLaren M10B Chev in which he cut his F5000 teeth in 1972 Australian Gold Star competition to an altogether more demanding mistress for the Tasman  Series, a Lola T300 Chev.

His ex-Niel Allen/Bob Muir car, chassis ‘HU4’ was a very good one, but the T300 was a fast, albeit flexy, twitchy little bugger. With guidance from mentor and engineer Peter Molloy, Warwick quickly adapted well to his new mount.

He didn’t finish the first Tasman round at Pukekohe, the Lola out of fuel but was third behind Graham McRae and Frank Matich in their own designed and built cars, two very hardened professionals at Levin. He was second the following round at Wigram behind McRae. Warwick then went to Australia feeling great despite a poor 7th at Teretonga with undisclosed car dramas.

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WB, Team Target (retail stores) Lola T300 Chev, New Zealand, Tasman 1973

At Surfers Paradise though he became a ‘Lola Limper’ bigtime…

His car got away from him on the fast, demanding circuit spreading bits of aluminium and fibreglass over the undulations of the Nerang countryside and broke both of  Warwick’s legs. He got wide onto the marbles on the entry to the flat out in fifth right-hander under Dunlop Bridge and bounced across the grass into the dirt embankment surrounding the circuit. The light aluminium tub folded back, in the process doing horrible things to Warwick’s feet and lower limbs. He had a very long recovery, made somewhat easier by the promise of a new car from his near neighbour patron, mining millionaire Pat Burke.

That September 2nd in 1973 i attended the ‘Glynn Scott Memorial Trophy’, the F5000 Surfers Paradise Gold Star round in 1973, and hobbling around on crutches was Warwick talking to his fellow F5000 competitors and the fans…

He really was struggling just to get about and obviously in pain. Unbelievably, I couldn’t believe it when I saw the race report, he contested the next Gold Star round on October 7, one month later in Adelaide. No way could he get in and out of the car unaided.

To me it was madness, given his state, but to Warwick it was everything. He withdrew his old M10B after 8 laps and spent the following months getting properly fit for the ’74 Tasman but he had put down a marker as one determined, tough hombre!

Pat Burke bought him a new Lola T332 Chev, chassis ‘HU27’, the first production T332 and WB had a very consistent Tasman series in it…

He never finished worse than 7th, only failing to complete the NZ GP at Wigram, and won the final round, the Adelaide International. The ’74 Tasman had depth, the field included Teddy Pilette, Graeme Lawrence, John Walker, Max Stewart, Kevin Bartlett, John McCormack and Graham McRae- Peter Gethin won it in a VDS Chevron B24 Chev.

Warwick, Pat and Peter Molloy had plans to take on the best in the US by taking their Lola to the ‘States, ‘match fit’ as it was after the rigours of the eight race Tasman program.

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WB in ’73 (John Lemm)

In 1974 the SCCA/USAC F5000 field included Mario Andretti, Brian Redman, Jackie Oliver, Sam Posey, Graham McRae, Brett Lunger, David Hobbs, Al Unser, Lella Lombardi, Vern Schuppan, James Hunt, John Cannon and others.

By the time Warwick and his crew got to the Ontario round on 1 September it was ‘Formula T332’- Mario Andretti had won two rounds, Brian Redman a couple and David Hobbs one, all in Lola T332’s, the greatest F5000 car ever.

Brown was 11th at Ontario and then 5th at Monterey in mid-October behind Redman, James Hunt in an Eagle 755, Andretti, and Eppie Wietzes in another T332. In the series final round, the Riverside GP, he was third behind Andretti and Redman.

As a WB fan reading about these performances in Australian weekly ‘Auto Action’ I remember being blown away by his speed in such august company viewed through the prism of just how badly hurt he was- and would be again, he had three ‘Big Ones’ in his pro career. I could see his pain getting around at Surfers.

It takes extraordinary guts to get back into these things after big accidents in which you are hurt. The mind management and sheer courage involved has always intrigued me. Not that he was the only ‘Lola Limper’ in Australasia, Graeme Lawrence and Kevin Bartlett spring readily to mind.

But those three US races in ’74 made him really, he proved to himself he could do it. The crew came back to Oz later in 1974 and Warwick was running away with the AGP at Oran Park until mechanical problems intervened. He then won the ’75 Tasman in a close fought battle with fellow T332 drivers Graeme Lawrence and John Walker and set up a US pro-career for the next few years with Jack McCormack’s Talon nee McRae cars in 1975 and then Team VDS.

It’s not an article about the entirety of WB’s career rather a reflection on mind over matter, toughness, passion, resilience and the fierce desire to compete and win that separates elite drivers like Brown, Lawrence and Bartlett from we mere mortals…

Credits…

oldracingcars.com, Bob Harmeyer, The Enthusiast Network, John Lemm

Tailpiece: Brown winning in the Lola T333CS Chev, Watkins Glen 1978…

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Warwick Brown’s VDS Racing Lola T333CS Chev enroute to a single-seat Can Am win at Watkins Glen on 9 July 1978, he won from Al Holbert and Rocky Moran both also Lola T333CS mounted. The car following WB is George Follmer’s Prophet Chev. Brown was 2nd in the championship that year but the class of the field was his countryman, the 3 years older Alan Jones who took 5 victories and the title in the ‘works’ Carl Haas T333CS. Jones was ‘moonlighting’ in 5 litre cars having gained a toehold in F1 (Bob Harmeyer)

 

imageGarrie Cooper’s Elfin 600D Ford leads Vern Schuppan’s March 722 Ford through the fast swoops of the challenging Thomson Road circuit and into the hot, dense, green, steamy forests of the island city state during the 1972 Singapore Grand Prix…

Vern was 2nd in his March 722, a good result as he boofed the car early in the 30 March-2 April race weekend. ‘I crashed in qualifying when something broke in the rear suspension – the car was absolutely brand new. Luckily I hadn’t hit anything too solid and so we were able to cobble something together and I started from the back’. This chassis was the same one which, with modifications by Brian Falconer, he raced to victory in Singapore in 1973. Garrie didn’t finish the ’72 race he won in the very first Elfin 600 in 1968. I wrote an article a while back about the 1973 race, the last until the modern era, click here to read it;

https://primotipo.com/2016/04/29/birrana-cars-and-the-1973-singapore-gp/

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Winner of the ’72 Singapore GP Max Stewart’s Mildren Waggott Ford with Leo Geoghegan’s Brabham Brabham BT30 Ford right up his chuff and Bob Muir’s yellow Rennmax BN3 Ford in the distance (AOS)

I remember as a kid thinking Asia was a very exotic place…

Australia had, believe it or not, ‘The White Australia Policy’ (progressively dismantled from 1949-73) which kept non-whiteys, Asians included out of the joint, so back then you didn’t see ‘em on the streets. The place was bland, populated as it was by lotsa similar looking Anglos. Thankfully all that is a thing of the long distant past. People from countries to our immediate north have added hugely to the wonderful, disparate melting pot of race, creed and color we have enjoyed here, especially post World War 2.

To me as a kid though, Asia was exotic, different, but not far away like Europe. I read with great interest of the success of Kevin Bartlett in Macau and Leo Geoghegan at Fuji in 1969 when i flicked through the 1970 ‘Australian Motor Racing Annual’, my first road-racing magazine purchase, and marvelled at the circuits.

Two decades later, in 1989-91 I was regularly in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore on business. Even though I had it in my mind then to walk as much of the Thomson Road Circuit as I could, I never did make the easy 12 kilometre excursion from central Singapore to do so, it was always too hot to walk the place. Dammit!, its such a wild looking track…

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Garrie Cooper, Elfin 600D Ford ‘7012’, Singapore GP 1972 (AOS)

Cooper was a popular Singapore visitor having won the race in 1968 in the very first Elfin 600 built. Garrie’s 1972 Singapore car is to me the ‘definitive ultimate’ Elfin 600; chassis 600D ‘7012’ was built as Cooper’s own, works, 2.5 litre Tasman Formula car powered by the ‘definitive’ Repco Tasman engine, the gorgeous little ‘830 Series’, SOHC, 2 valve, Lucas injected ‘short block’ V8. Mind you, in that form it didn’t have the ‘fugly’ Tyrrell type nosecone it wears here.

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Garrie Cooper during the 28 June 1970 Gold Star round at Oran Park, 3rd in Elfin 600D Repco ‘7012’. Max Stewart won in the Mildren Waggott from Leo Geoghegan’s similarly engined car, Leo won the Gold Star that year (oldracephotos.com)

The Tasman 2.5 Formula was over as Australia’s ANF1 at the end of 1970 so the Repco in ‘7012’s frame was removed and fitted into an Elfin 360 sportscar. An injected Lotus/Ford twin-cam was then inserted into the spaceframe chassis for ANF2 racing. And for events in South East Asia which changed to a ‘twin-cam, 2 valve’ formula, effectively mandating the venerable, wonderful Lotus/Ford engine which was a mainstay of motor racing globally for the best part of 20 years.

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Cooper leads the rest of the 1968 GP grid on lap 1 into the Thomson Mile chicane, Elfin 600 Ford. Advice on following car ID’s gratefully accepted (AOS)

I’m in the middle of drafting an article on the Repco engined Elfin 600’s at the moment, all three of them, so will leave that topic for now. ‘7012’ was bought by Col Allison for his lad Bruce at the end of Garrie’s Asian tour, the speedy Queenslander was showing promise in a 600FF back home, steering ‘7012’ around Lakeside and Surfers Paradise was another step in Bruce’s rise to prominence and success overseas.

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Lovely side profile shot of Max Stewart and his winning Mildren in 1972 (AOS)

The winner of the 1972 GP was Max Stewart who took his final big win in the Mildren Waggott which had given him so much success over the years.

The big, ultimately fast, country-boy from Orange in New South Wales literally knew every nut and bolt in this long-lived cars frame. His most recent success in it was the 1971 Australian Gold Star series when he ‘nicked’ the title from his great mate Kevin Bartlett. KB’s F5000 McLaren M10B Chev had the speed in the first year the Gold Star was run to F5000, but Max had enough speed, better handling and much more reliability from his Waggott 2 litre, DOHC, 4 valve, circa 275bhp motor.

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Stewart from Geoghegan in the Circus Hairpin (AOS)

Max was racing an F5000 Elfin MR5 Repco in 1972 Tasman and Gold Star events, but no doubt victorious transition back to the little Mildren was as easy and sweet as a ‘booty call’ with a recent girlfriend!

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Max accepts his trophy. Neat scoreboard; #6 Stewart Mildren Ford, #129 Schuppan March 722 Ford, #7 Muir Rennmax BN3 Ford and #1 Rajah March 712M Ford (AOS)

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MS garlanded in the victorious Mildren Waggott. For this race it was fitted with 1.6 litre Lotus/Ford twin cam on Webers rather than the Waggott DOHC, 4 valve, injected engines of 1600/1860/2000cc capacity with which the car mainly raced over its long life. Brabham magnesium uprights clear in shot, interesting are the rubber bushed type spherical joints used. This very successful car was restored by Greg Smith in Elwood, Melbourne some years back with further work done in more recent times by Max Pearson who owns and keeps it, and Max’ 1972 Elfin MR5 Repco F5000, in amazingly fine fettle. Both are familiar cars to historic racing enthusiasts in Oz (AOS)

Missing from the ’72 Singapore GP grid was three times (1969-71) winner, Kiwi champion Graeme Lawrence who had an horrific shunt during the opening lap of the 1972 New Zealand Grand Prix at Pukekohe in January which destroyed his brand new Lola T300, badly injured himself and killed Bryan Falloon, whose Rennmax/Stanton Porsche, Graeme collided with.

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Geoghegan, Brabham BT30 (AOS)

One of Lawrence’s many Australian friends Leo Geoghegan raced Graeme’s Brabham BT30, the 1970 Australian Gold Star champion finished 5th in the unfamiliar, but oh-so-forgiving Ron Tauranac designed chassis.

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Leo Geoghegan in Graeme Lawrence’s Brabham BT30 Ford, advice gratefully received on what part of the circuit many of these photos are, and a race report if anyone has one (AOS)

Ostensibly retired from open-wheeler competition, Leo was lured back in 1972 by Birrana Engineering boss Malcolm Ramsay, Malcolm a South East Asia regular competitor. The exploits of these two are well covered in the ’73 Singapore GP article referenced above.

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Vern tested the BRM P153B, the P153 the Bourne concerns 1970 challenger, during Belgian GP practice at Nivelles in 1972, the car was raced by Helmut Marko to 10th. Emerson Fittipaldi won in a Lotus 72D Ford (unattributed)

Vern would see a lot of his countrymen in the years to come in F5000 competition but it was the first time he had raced against Cooper, Stewart, Geoghegan, Muir, Bartlett and Kiwi, Lawrence.

Schuppan left South Australia’s Flinders Ranges town, Booleroo Centre, with some karting experience in Australia and via Formula Ford success in the UK, won the first British F Atlantic title in 1971 in a works Palliser.

He was very much a coming-man at the time of the Singapore GP, having a BRM contract in his pocket for 1972. BRM had more drivers than hot dinners that season, the Aussies only races were the non-championship May, Oulton Park ‘Gold Cup’ and October, Brands Hatch ‘Victory Race’ in which he finished 4th and 5th respectively.

Despite that, he impressed BRM boss Lou Stanley enough and signed a contract to drive alongside temporary Ferrari escapee Clay Regazzoni in 1973. Stanley’s hiring of Jean-Pierre Beltoise and Niki Lauda’s schillings sidelined him. ‘I knew that I had to be in F1 with a good team by the time I was 30 – and so I thought I’d cracked it. But when I arrived back in Australia for Christmas and picked up a Daily Express at the airport, there it was: Lauda Signs for BRM. I attended races with the team and did a lot of testing, something I always enjoyed – but it was a disappointment’ said Vern in a recent MotorSport interview.

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Sonny Rajah (above) was a Malaysian character who won a lot of friends in Australia in 1974 when he contested our Van Heusen Australian F2 Championship. He used the same March chassis, the ex-Ronnie Petersen Euro F2 Championship winning 712M, he drove to 4th place in Singapore, the misfiring March finishing between Schuppan and Geoghegan.

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Muir from Cooper and Schuppan at Circus Hairpin (AOS)

Rennmax BN3 Ford; Kevin Bartlett and Bob Muir…

Amongst the most numerous cars from one marque were Rennmax BN3’s, these cars raced by Stewart (nee Mildren) as well as his F5000 buddies Kevin Bartlett and Bob ‘Skinny’ Muir.

Regular readers may recall that these cars were built by Sydney’s Bob Britton on the Brabham BT23 jig he created to repair Denny Hulme’s works BT23 damaged in New Zealand during the ’68 Tasman Series.

Bob Muir’s car was, I think, Ken Goodwin’s chassis raced by Bob in Australia during 1971, notably at the Hordern Trophy meeting at Warwick Farm. Muir had a very competitive run in Singapore finishing 3rd in the yellow car.

KB leased Sydney driver Doug Heasman’s car and recalls the weekend well‘…unfortunately I had a DNF result after an off, due to slight damage to the suspension. Fire marshalls had inexplicably placed a fire hose across the road on a blind corner to douse a crashed car, I bounced off the road when the wheels hit it. There was no flag signal of the situation at the flag point before, which caused the problem’ recalled KB recently.

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Kevin Bartlett typically sideways, Rennmax BN3 Ford (AOS)

As to the Thomson Road circuit he related that ‘I quite liked the layout as a real road circuit. It had jungle like bush in many parts, with huge drainage ditches to one side in many places and virtually nil runoffs, certainly it was a challenging place. I remember leading for all but the last few laps one year (1970) from Graeme Lawrence’s Ferrari (ex-Amon 1969 Tasman winning Ferrari Dino 246T in which Graeme also won the 1970 Tasman) with a DNF in the Mildren Alfa V8 ‘Yellow Sub’ the car in which KB won the 1969 Macau Grand Prix and Australian Gold Star Series.

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Kevin Bartlett and Graeme Lawrence on the front row of the grid for the 1970 Singapore GP, start/finish straight relatively narrow. KB #5 in Alec Mildren’s Len Bailey designed, Alan Mann Racing built Mildren ‘Yellow Submarine’ Alfa Romeo, here in its ‘definitive’ Alfa Tipo 33 2.5 litre V8 form, as it was originally designed. It was quicker when fitted with the 2 litre Waggott but always ‘sexier’ with the Alfa engine, for me it defines everything that was great about the Tasman 2.5 Formula. GL is in his equally lustworthy, and victorious, ex-Amon Ferrari 246T. #66 is Albert Poon’s Brabham BT30 FVA, the car alongside, I think is John McDonald’s Brabham BT23 FVA (AOS)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Bartlett leads the field on lap 1 of the 1970 GP into the Thomson Road chicane, Graeme Lawrence is almost obscured he is so close to KB’s FT200 Hewland. Then its Stewart in the Mildren Waggott #6 and McDonald’s Brabham BT23 FVA #16 and the rest. Bartlett won the preliminary 20 lapper on Friday and led the 40 lap GP, in a very spirited close race with Lawrence until lap 37 when a valve spring in the little V8 broke, dropping an inlet valve, KB recalls. The field was small, only 10 cars due to mechanical mishaps in the preliminary, 12 cars took to the grid in the GP but 2 crashed on the warm up lap! so 10 started (AOS)

 

 

 

 

 

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Muir ahead of Bartlett’s red Rennmax BN3 on the Thomson Mile with John McDonald’s ex-Rondel Racing white Brabham BT36 Ford. Back home these two Sydneysiders raced Lola T300’s in the domestic Gold Star Series with Muir immediately on the pace when he started racing F5000 during the ’72 Australian Tasman rounds. KB was the driver who well and truly served it up to Matich when he took delivery of his T300 during the ’72 Gold Star, which Frank won in his A50 Repco (AOS)

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Cooper in his brand new Elfin at the Circus Hairpin, Singapore GP 1968. Great looking cars, the only marginal change to the body, which made the things even sweeter was a ‘wedgier’ element or shape to the radiator cowl, you can see it in the shot above of Cooper’s 600D Repco at Oran Park up above earlier in the article (AOS)

Singapore GP 1968, Garrie Cooper and Elfin 600 ‘6801’…

Garrie’s win in the Elfin 600 prototype ‘6801’ was pretty handy commercially for the likable, talented South Aussie and his band of gifted artisans at Edwardstown, an inner south-western Adelaide suburb.

Elfin 600’s won in FF, F3, F2 and ANF1; no other car in Australia (the world?) ever had that ‘bandwidth’.

Critically the car was built in relatively large numbers and exported providing valuable cashflow, the lifeblood of any business especially a small one financed, as they are typically in Oz, by a mortgage over the business owners home. 600’s were built from 1968-72 and were cars which helped launched a swag of careers not least Larry Perkins who won Australian titles in FF and F2 aboard a 600FF and 600B/E. The following, less successful model, the 620/2/3, were evolutions of the 600 spaceframe design and also sold well.

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‘6801’ in the Thomson Road paddock 1968, mechanical details as per text. The caption notes driver and shortly Elfin 600 customer Henkie Iriawan seated at far left with the car being fettled by the Elfin boys and Loh Yap Ting in white. So impressed was Iriawan that he bought ‘6801’ at the end of the race meeting, and later a 600B to which he fitted a Ford FVA engine. Local ‘shops who looked after the visiting teams were Federated Motors and Borneo Motors, both the preferred facilities (AOS)

Cooper and his team finished ‘6801’, raced it at Calder in Victoria in March and then shipped it to South East Asia. These shots show the beautifully fabricated steel spaceframe chassis, Lotus/Ford Weber fed, DOHC engine, a good 1600 twinc good for circa 170bhp at the time. Gearbox here is a Hewland HD5, production cars usually used Hewland Mk8/9 or FT200 dependent upon application.

The cars first race on its Asian tour was the Selangor GP at Shah Alam, Malaysia on the 6/7 April weekend, Garrie didn’t complete his heat with a broken crown wheel and pinion.

In the Singapore GP, Allan Grice had the gearbox problem, the case of the ex-Mildren/Gardner/Bartlett Brabham BT11A’s Hewland ‘box split causing the end of a good dice between Cooper and Grice. Jan Bussell’s Brabham BT14 Ford was 2nd and Steve Holland’s Lotus 47 Ford sportscar, the event was run to Formula Libre, was 3rd.

‘6801’ was still giving a good account of itself in ANF2 in 1973/4 in Paul Hamilton’s hands amongst all the modern Birrana, March and Bowin monocoques and is still raced by him in historic racing. It always brings a smile to my face whenever I see the little red, immaculate machine given its Elfin historic significance.

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Cooper accelerates out of Circus Hairpin on the way to his ’68 GP win. He is ahead of Allan Grice, later Australian Touring Car ace in a Brabham BT11A Climax and Albert Poon’s Brabham BT21 Alfa. Garrie led from lap 5, Poon retired on lap 10 with a damaged wheel (AOS)

Etcetera…

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(AOS)

Cooper (above) in the 600D Ford ‘7012’, Singapore 1972. He really did make a beautiful car as ‘ugly as a hat full of arseholes’ didn’t he?, no doubt it was effective though. Tyrrell started this F1 trend at the ’71 French GP.

These Elfin 600D experiments flowed directly into the modified noses of the MR5 F5000 cars which Cooper fitted to his, and John McCormack’s car during the Australian Tasman rounds in 1972. See photo below. Those noses became ‘definitive spec’ on MR5’s and the subsequent MR6 F5000. It was only at the very end of the MR5’s long life that Garrie tried a ‘chisel nose’ and side rads on his MR5 when he was assessing the body shape and profiles to be fitted to his 1976 MR8 F5000, a very successful series of cars.

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(Hemer)

This 1972 Oran Park shot above shows the MR5 ‘before and after’; John Walker’s car in front with the original 1971 blade front wing and Cooper’s car further back with the ‘Tyrrell’ type nose, both MR5’s are Repco powered. That’s Max Stewart’s Mildren Waggott’s nose shoved up John’s clacker by the way. Interesting that he was racing the little 2 litre car rather than his MR5 at this meeting. What meeting is it folks, its not a Gold Star round, one of you Sydneysiders will know?

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(AOS)

Leo has had an argument with the local geography and lost, ‘sorry Graeme, it was like this…’, no damage to the rest of the little BT30 mind you.

Bibliography…

MotorSport ‘The Forgotten Singapore Grands Prix’ by Paul Fearnley September 2016, The Nostalgia Forum, Kevin Bartlett

Photo Credits…

National Archive of Singapore (AOS), Lynton Hemer

Tailpiece: Cooper accepts the plaudits of the crowd and the victors garland in 1968, neat rear cowl of the  Elfin 600 clear and a feature on all the production cars…

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(AOS)

 

 

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(oldracephotos.com)

Few drivers knew Warwick Farm like Frank Matich and Kevin Bartlett…

They raced at the track from its earliest days, it’s first meeting in 1960 I wonder?, and certainly the last international meeting, sadly the 1973 Tasman round run 12 months after the photos here were taken, Steve Thomson won that very wet race in a Chevron B24 Chev.

Here the two Sydneysiders are attacking The Esses during the 1972 F5000 Tasman round, the ‘Warwick Farm 100’ on 13 February. Matich was 1st in his Matich A50 Repco and KB 3rd in his McLaren M10B Chev, not really a front-line tool by that stage but still quick enough in Kevin’s highly skilled hands to win at Teretonga, the final ’72 Kiwi round, a fortnight before.

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Bartlett and original owner Niel Allen had a lot of success in this McLaren M10B ‘400-02’, car now in the tender, loving hands of Alan Hamilton, also a former Australian champion .KB here during the ’72 Tasman race. A Lola T300 would replace the car in time for the domestic Gold Star Series (unattributed)

Matich didn’t have a good Tasman, the A50 was quick enough to win the series but FM didn’t have a lot of luck, the championship was convincingly won by Kiwi arch driver/constructor rival Graham McRae in the Leda/McRae GM1 Chev penned by Len Terry.

Click here for an article on the Matich F5000 cars including the 1972 Tasman Series:

https://primotipo.com/2015/09/11/frank-matich-matich-f5000-cars-etcetera/

Credits…

oldracephotos.com, Bob Williamson Collection

Tailpiece: The Lola T300 was ‘a chick’ with a great arse and hips, visually arresting…

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Frank Gardner and Lola T300 Chev ahead of Frank Matich in the ’72 WF pitlane for tweaks. FG won the ’72 NZ GP in this T300 at Pukekohe, his last single-seater win, I think (Bob Williamson)

 

Frank Gardner split Matich and Bartlett, he was second at Warwick Farm in the factory T300. Frank was not exactly unfamiliar with WF either, mind you no-one would have done more laps around it than Matich, Frank tested tyres for Firestone, and later Goodyear and his cars a lot!

Between Gardner and Bob Marston they concepted a small F5000 based on Lola’s F2 tub. By placing the big water radiators, you needed plenty of coolant to look after the needs of a big Chev, at the cars hips they gave the car, and the T330/332 which followed it their most distinctive and attractive feature. Effective too in terms of aerodynamics and centralising weight, an article on the T300 is one for another time…

Finito…

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(John Arkwright)

Check out the view Maxxy!

Niel Allen and Max Stewart having a contretemps at Skyline, Mount Panorama, Bathurst, Easter 1969…

The bucolic terrain of New South Wales Central Tablelands stretches into the distance, the view probably not what the two drivers were focussed upon at the time. The race was the ’69 Bathurst Gold Star round, the field of which was substantially reduced by this first lap prang. The incident happened when Max misjudged his braking behind John Harvey, locked a brake and boofed the fence in his Mildren Waggott 1.6. Niel was right up Max’ chuff in his ex-Piers Courage McLaren M4A Ford FVA 1.6 and couldn’t avoid him. Out of shot is Queenslander Glynn Scott’s Bowin P3 FVA who also joined in the fun!

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Nice butt shot of Harvey’s BT23E; note wing mounted to cars uprights at rear, ‘RB740’ ‘between the Vee engine’ and oil cooler up in the breeze (oldracephotos.com)

Here (above) is a shot of Harve’s Bob Jane owned Brabham BT23E Repco, it was Jack’s works ’68 Tasman car, sold to Bob at the end of the series then raced by John in the following years. In fact it wasn’t a lucky car for Harvey, he had a big accident at the same Easter meeting in ’68 when an upright broke, rooting the car and John. He was in hospital for quite a while after the prang, his speed undiminished when he returned to racing Jane’s stable of racers, sports-racers and tourers.

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Harvey’s BT23E at Bathurst after his big practice accident on 14 April 1968 (Dale Harvey)

Click here for an article on this car;

https://primotipo.com/?s=brabham+bt23e

These fellas are favourites; property developer Allen was later as quick as Australia’s F5000 ‘Gold Standard’ Frank Matich without nearly as many seat miles, Stewart a multiple ‘Gold Star’ (1971/4) and AGP winner (19734/5) and Harvey a winner in everything he raced; speedcars, single-seaters, big sportscars and touring cars, the Bathurst enduro included.

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Start of the Bathurst ’69 Gold Star race: front row comprises Max’ yellow Mildren Waggott, Niel Allen McLaren M4A FVA and on the inside Leo Geoghegan’s Lotus 39 Repco. The blue car behind is Glynn Scott’s Bowin P3 FVA and Harvey’s red Brabham BT23E, the torque of which clearly gobbled up Stewart and Allen on the steep climb up the mountain for Max to nearly run into him heading down the mountain. The white car is Henk Woelders’ 3rd placed Elfin 600 Ford t/c. You can just see Jacks red Brabham on the outside beginning his charge. He had fuel feed problems in practice so was off grid 7 with times well below the cars potential (Neville McKay)

The race was won by Jack Brabham’s F3 based Brabham BT31 Repco on a rare Gold Star Australian appearance fitted into his European program. This little jigger was powered by a 2.5 litre ‘830 Series’ SOHC, 2 valve Repco V8. Easter Bathurst is an historically significant meeting in Repco terms; it was Jack’s last Repco race and win in Australia. Brabham’s last International Repco races were those contested by he and Peter Revson in the USAC Championship that year in Brabham BT25’s powered by Repco ‘760 Series’ 4.2 litre DOHC, 4 valve, methanol fuelled V8’s.

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Brabham between Skyline and The Dipper, BT31 Repco during the race (Dick Simpson)

Check out, rather than repeating myself these articles on the BT31;

https://primotipo.com/2015/02/26/rodways-repco-recollections-brabham-bt31-repco-jacks-69-tasman-car-episode-4/

and on Brabham’s 1969 and 1970 seasons;

https://primotipo.com/2014/09/01/easter-bathurst-1969-jack-brabham-1970-et-al/

This article was inspired by Lindsay Ross uploading quite a few images of this meeting on his oldracephotos.com Instagram page, check it out, they pop up a post every day or so. It seemed an idea to put the images floating around of this meeting in one place. I’ve an Instagram page too, as well as Facebook, just key ‘primotipo’ into the respective search engines and follow the prompts. The FB page has quite a lot of shots I don’t use on primotipo so may be worth a look every few days.

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Brian Page in BT23A with ‘740 Series’ Repco, DNF with broken exhaust on lap 15 in the ex-Brabham/Scuderia Veloce machine (oldracephotos.com)

The first lap accident ruined what could have been an interesting race, Jack cruised to an easy race win by 1.5 minutes from Harvey’s car and Henk Woelders F2 Elfin 600B Ford t/cam.

Historically interesting is that this meeting was on the weekend of 7 April 1969, high-wings were banned globally at Monaco on the GP weekend of 18 May 1969, so it’s interesting to see the ‘Australian State of the Art’ in terms of fitment of said aero devices immediately before they were banned. Brabham tried the ‘bi-wing’ below setup on his BT31 in practice but raced with only a rear wing fitted.

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Of arcane interest, perhaps (from the master of the arcane and tangential) is that all of Jacks ‘works’ Repco engined Tasman cars competed in this race bar one…

Brian Page’s BT23A(1) is JB’s ’67 Tasman car, Harve’s BT23E(1) is the ’68 weapon and Jack raced BT31 the car, late arriving in Australia, which did the ’69 Sandown round only.

Missing is BT19(F1-1-65) the chassis in which Jack won the ’66 World F1 Drivers and Constructors titles, and in 2.5 litre ‘620 Series’ engined form, raced in the ’66 Tasman Series, putting valuable pre-GP season race miles on Repco’s ‘brand-spankers’ V8 at Sandown and Longford.

The only car not in Oz now is BT23E(1) which was, and still may be in the US.

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Jack Brabham guiding BT19 (F1-1-65) into The Viaduct, Longford on his way to 3rd place during the South Pacific Trophy on 7 March 1966, the third race for the new RB ‘620 Series’ V8. The race was won by Jackie Stewart’s BRM P261

Whilst on the arcane it occurs to me is what a versatile, influential and successful design Ron Tauaranac’s BT23 space-frame was in the Brabham Pantheon…

’twas Ron’s clean sheet design for the new for ’67 1.6 litre European F2; it’s variants won a million F2 races over the following years in the hands of aces like Rindt but also in the care of privateer ‘coming-men’. Mind you it didn’t ever win the title despite winning 6 of the ten championship rounds in 1967, ‘graded drivers’ like Rindt were ineligible for championship points. Matra and Lotus took the ‘works entry’ approach more seriously than Jack and Ron during these years, in any event, as a customer racing car the BT23’s won lotsa races, the 1968 Rindt driven BT23C the most successful car of the year.

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Jochen Rindt typically all ‘cocked up’ on the way to a win in the 9 July 1967 ‘GP de Rouen-les-Essarts’, Brabham BT23 Ford FVA. 1.6 litre F2 formula one of great chassis, it not engine diversity, Ford’s Cosworth FVA won every title from 1967 to 1971. F2 was 2 litre from ‘72 (unattributed)

From an F1 perspective the ’67 World Championship winning BT24 Repco was a ‘beefed up’ BT23, to the extent that Ron initially raced his BT24’s with an FT200 Hewland, the Maidenhead gearbox gurus ‘F2 box’ but found that tranny overstressed with ‘740 Series’ Repco V8 torque tearing away at its gizzards, its CWP in particular. I won’t bang on about the BT24 now as I’m in the process of writing an article about the ’67 Brabham/Repco winning season and go into much BT24 detail. Suffice it to say that the F2 BT23 begat the F1 BT24, my favourite Brabham.

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Denny Hulme jumping his BT24 Repco at the Nurburgring during his ’67 Championship winning season. He won the German GP by 40 seconds from Jack (unattributed)

From an Australian viewpoint the BT23 Repco Tasman cars were very important as they provided much needed cars on skinny local grids…

The Tasman Series 2.5 Formula grids were ‘chockers’ with cars and stars, the domestic championship contained quality but not quantity. Budgets for these relatively expensive cars were hard to find in the sixties and Australia’s march to Touring Car domination was already well underway so ‘taxis’ were starting to absorb sponsorship budgets previously devoted to real racing cars.

Funnily enough, even though there was a swag of Repco engined BT23’s running around it was Alec Mildren’s, one off, 2.5 litre Alfa Romeo Tipo 33 V8 engined BT23D(1) which took a Gold Star. Frank Gardner raced this car in the ’68 Tasman, it was then taken over by Kevin Bartlett, the Aussie ace took the ’68 Gold Star in it. Repco never won a Gold Star title, a topic to explore at some stage during the Repco series of articles I am gradually writing with Rodway Wolfe and more recently Nigel Tait’s help.

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Simply sensational Dick Simpson shot of Kevin Bartlett in BT23D Alfa, Hell Corner Bathurst Easter 1968, KB was walking away with the race until a broken rear upright ended his run. Dominant in this car in ‘68/9 (Dick Simpson)

Delving deeper into this BT23 tangent, whilst a BT23 Repco never won a Gold Star, a BT23 Waggott nee Mildren did…

Denny Hulme raced a works F2 Brabham BT23(5) FVA in the ’68 Tasman Series comprehensively boofing the car in the New Zealand Grand Prix at Pukekohe on 6 January, the series opening round.

Denny’s chassis was Jochen Rindt’s Winkelmann Racing entry in ’67, he won 9 Euro F2 races in it including the Rouen event pictured above. Another car (BT23-2) was sent from England for Denny to race in the rest of the series. Feo Stanton and Ian Rorison of Rorstan Racing bought the wreck and sent it to Rennmax Engineering in Sydney for Bob Britton to repair.

Instead of doing so Bob made a jig from the bent frame and sent a new chassis, the Rorstan Mk1 back to the Kiwis. Seven cars were built on the BT23 jig; the Rorstan, Mildren, two Rennmax BN2 and three BN3’s. Of these the Mildren, so named by Alec Mildren, the Sydney Alfa Romeo dealer, team owner and former Gold Star champion was the most successful. The Britton jig was also put to good use over the coming years repairing cars like Harvey’s bent BT23E!

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Max Stewart ‘harry flatters in top gear’ heading down Surfers Paradise main straight and about to guide his 2 litre Waggott powered Mildren missile under the fast right hander and Dunlop Bridge. 9th in the ‘Surfers 100’ Tasman round in 1970 against the F5000’s. Graham McRae’s McLaren M10A Chev won the race but Bartlett’s 2 litre Mildren Mono Waggott was 2nd on this power circuit (Dick Simpson)

So…the Mildren pictured resting against the Skyline Armco fencing at this articles outset is a BT23 design. Max Stewart was prodigiously fast in the Mildren Waggott, he was one of those guys who seemed to get quicker as he got older, in ’69 he was quick, by the mid-seventies he absolutely flew in his Lola F5000’s. He was one of the very small number of blokes in Oz who squeezed absolutely everything out of these, big, demanding, fast, spectacular, fabulous 500bhp V8’s.

Bartlett, Matich, Allen, John McCormack, Bruce Allison, Warwick Brown, John Walker and Stewart in my book were the F5000 aces with Matich, if I have to pick one, the first among equals. Mind you, on sheer speed Alf Costanzo who came relatively late to the F5000 party could have been ‘the one’. Its an interesting topic to debate, end of F5000 tangent!

One of the pit sights which always amused me, and admittedly small things amuse small minds was big Max, he wasn’t a ‘fat bastard’, but he was 6’2”, crammimg himself into one of his cars before setting off for the dummy grid. If there was a taller bloke than Max in F5000 globally I’d be intrigued to know his name. He must have given away at least 10Kg to the rest of the grid before he even plopped his arse into the tight aluminium monocoque confines of the F5000 Lolas in which he excelled.

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Max was big of stature and heart; here he is after winning the Rothmans International Series ‘Sandown Cup’ on 20 February 1977, his last big win, Lola T400 Chev, sadly not too long before his untimely death at Calder, 19 March 1977 (Ian Smith)

By the time Merv Waggott was building 2 litre variants of his superb DOHC, 4 valve, Lucas injected, bespoke aluminium blocked engines they were outright winners in 2.5 litre Tasman Formula events in the hands on the Mildren Duo, Messrs Bartlett and Stewart. The first Gold Star for F5000 was in 1971; Max’ Mildren Waggott won the Gold Star with about 275bhp from his close mate Bartlett in a much less nimble and reliable 500bhp McLaren M10B Chev in a year of speed and consistency. I don’t care what anyone says, F5000’s driven to their limit were always a little brittle.

So, to join the dots, a BT23 design did win the Gold Star albeit called a Mildren. Stewart’s Mildren Waggott and Bartlett’s Mildren ‘Yellow Submarine’ Waggott are tangents too far for this article and a wonderful future topic, there is a sensational article to be written there with Kevin Bartlett’s first-hand assistance on both chassis’ and engine if I ask him nicely…

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Merv Waggott changing plugs in his baby, Wigram 1970. Bartlett’s Mildren Mono ‘Yellow Submarine’ Waggott (Bill Pottinger/the Roaring Season)

Merv Waggott changing plugs in one of his superb jewels. An all alloy, DOHC, gear driven 4 valve Lucas injected circa 275bhp 2 litre engine. Its in the back Of Kevin Bartlett’s Mildren ‘Yellow Sub’ Waggott, shot is in the Wigram paddock, 1970 Tasman round on 17 January on 7 December. KB had a lousy meeting, not setting a practice time and DNF on lap 6 with engine dramas, Stewart was 3rd though in his car, Matich the winner in his McLaren M10A Chev.

The Waggott 2 litre engine was first built in late 1969 and initially developed circa 250bhp, its output later circa 268-275bhp with about 160 lbs/ft of torque. It raced to a win in KB’s hands in the ‘Sub upon debut in the ’69 ‘Hordern Trophy’ at WF, KB won again at the 1970 Warwick Farm Tasman round ahead of all the F5000’s and 2.5 Tasman Formula cars.  2 litre Waggotts won Australias’ Gold Star in 1970 for Leo Geoghegan (Lotus 59) and Stewart in ’71 as noted above.

An article about Merv and his creations is a wonderful feature for another time. Briefly for international readers Waggott’s Sydney shop built race winning engines from the 1950’s, checkout the article below on the WM Special/Cooper T20 Waggott Holden twin-cam 6 cylinder raced by Jack Myers and tested by Stirling Moss in the late ‘50’s as some background.

https://primotipo.com/2015/02/10/stirling-moss-cumberland-park-speedway-sydney-cooper-t20-wm-holden-1956/

Winding the clock forward, as the ANF1 2.5 litre formula spluttered on in the late sixties a ‘battle to the death’ was fought for the new ANF1 category in Oz between opposing forces who supported either F5000 or 2 litre F2. The latter to commence in Europe from 1 January 1972, F5000 commenced in Europe in 1969 and was born in the US as Formula A earlier still.

Waggott engines were initially of 1600cc, then later 1860cc and used the ubiquitous Ford Cortina block, same as Cosworth’s 1’6 litre FVA wherein Keith Duckworth tested his design ideas in advance of finalising his DFV design. In 1600 form the Waggott would have been Euro F2 legal, it used a production block as the regs required. The 1.6 litre F2 started in ’67 and ended in 1971 when it grew to 2 litres. There were a few FVA’s racing in Australia, the 1.6 Waggott more than a match for them, no Waggott’s, sadly, ever raced in Euro F2.

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Lance Ruting studio shot of one of the engines, Ford block by the look of it so 1600 or 1860 (autopics.com)

Waggott 2 litre engines used a bespoke aluminium block as the stock cast iron Ford block maxxed out at about 1860cc. Beyond that the pistons kissed! Mike Hailwood’s Surtees TS10 won the ’72 Euro F2 Championship running Brian Hart built Ford BDA’s of 1850cc, those competitors running greater capacity than that had unreliability. The final Euro 2 litre F2 regs required production blocks from 1972-75 until ’76 when ‘racing engines’ were allowed. So, in the earliest years of the class the Waggott was ineligible.

Merv’s engines could have raced in F2 from ’76 but he had long before told CAMS to ‘shove it’ after F5000 was chosen (probably rightly given the backing of Ford, Holden and Repco who were building V8’s/wanting to develop an F5000 variant of the Holden engine in Repco’s case) as Australias’ new ANF1 from the 1971 Gold Star competition.

Had the ingenious, beautifully built little engine been Euro F2 Championship legal in 1972 Sydney’s Waggott Engineering had the winning engine! The engines were tried, tested championship winning donks ready to pop into any car. 275bhp and a big fat torque curve, Kevin Bartlett quoted the usable rev range of 6800-8750rpm, would have done the trick in 1972, the BMW M12 changed the F2 game from ’73 of course.

A wonderful ‘mighta-been’ all the same. Merv could have ‘stolen the F2 march’ in 1972 in much the same way Repco did in F1 with its Olds F85 production block based ‘620 Series’ V8 in 1966…

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Max Stewart on the way to winning the ‘Angus & Coote Trophy’, the 1971 Oran Park Gold Star round on 27 June. Mildren Waggott 2 litre, Graeme Lawerence was 2nd in a Brabham BT30 FVC, the little cars succeeding as the F5000’s fell away (Dick Simpson)

Credits…

John Arkwright, oldracephotos.com, Dick Simpson, Dale Harvey, Bill Pottinger/The Roaring Season, Ian Smith, Neville McKay, autopics.com.au

Bibliography…

oldracingcars.com, F2 Register

Tailpiece: A Lotus to end an article on Brabhams…

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Leo Geoghegan’s Lotus 39 Repco with ‘830 series’ Repco V8, started from the Bathurst ’69 pole but out on lap 12 with a gearbox problem, his time would shortly come with this car, winning the JAF Japanese GP later in 1969 amongst a classy field (oldracephotos.com)

Click here for an article on this ex-Clark chassis;

https://primotipo.com/?s=lotus+39

Finito…

 

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Frank Matich, Matich A50 Repco ‘#001/2’ , Shell Corner, Sandown, ‘Victoria Trophy’ April 1972. (Rennie Ellis)

Frank Matich on his way to victory during the first round of the Australian ‘Gold Star’ Series in 1972, Matich A50 Repco ‘001/2’…

The car made its stunningly successful debut at the 1971 AGP the previous November. Matich won the race in a brand new untested car, the first monocoque and first single seater his team built.

In the broader historic context it was the first time an Australian built car had won an AGP since Warwick Pratley’s George Reed Special Ford V8 victory at Narrogin, WA in 1951.

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FM reclined in his ‘comfy’ monocoque chair, A50 ‘001/2’. He is talking to Carroll Smith who was to be his crew chief in the upcoming 1973 trip to contest the US L&M F5000 Championship. Here at Wigram, NZ, Tasman Series 1973. (Shane Lee)

Introduction…

This is a bit of a nutty long article.

I tripped over some photos of the 1972 ‘Victoria Trophy’ at Sandown, shots not in the immense F5000 Facebook Groups photo archives, so i thought i would whack a ‘quickie article’ together to show my F5000 FB mates there are still shots to be found.

Then i started thinking about why Matich didn’t win more Gold Stars, he only won in ’72. That led to research on his early ’60’s single seater campaigns which segued into his mid-late sixties sportscar specialism when he wasn’t eligible for the Gold Star, a single seater championship. And finally back to single seaters again in the F5000 period.

Then one needs to look at the Tasman Series as you can’t look at just the domestic Gold Star series in isolation…

Then there are the Matich cars he built and drove which are a key part of the story…and i kept on writing of course.

So! This rather long, eclectic mess comprises;

.The ’72 Victoria Trophy where i started

.A bit about FM’s 1964/5 2.5 litre Brabham single-seater Tasman formula years

.A fleeting summary of his ’66-’69 Sportscar phase, not a lot though as his Matich SR3 and SR4 campaigns deserve more detail, its a story for another time

.Then the substance of FM’s Matich F5000 cars and their racing campaigns with Matich.

In terms of the Matich F5000 detail i have drawn heavily on conversations and a manuscript provided by Derek Kneller, (DK) an Englishman who was a Team Matich engineer/mechanic for the whole of its F5000 period. He literally shipped FM’s first McLaren M10A to Oz and followed it in August 1969 and returned to the UK in 1974 after FM retired and the cars were sold.

The very articulate Derek was in Australia recently for FM’s funeral and recorded a very interesting interview with ‘Pitlane’, there is a link to it towards the end of this article, its well worth watching.

Many thanks Derek! If Australians have seen some of Derek’s material before its because it was included in Aaron Lewis’ excellent article on the Matich F5000 cars published in ‘Australian Musclecar Magazine’ some years ago. Much of the material has not been published before however.

Here we go, its long, so grab a beer, if you get lost come back here to see where you are!…

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Successful partnership. Frank Matich and Chief Mechanic, Derek Kneller on the right prior to the start of the NZ GP, Pukekohe 1973. Matich A50 Repco ‘001/2’. (Derek Kneller Collection)

1972 Gold Star and Tasman Series…

Max Stewart took the 1971 Gold Star in his 2 Litre Mildren Waggott, his blend of speed and reliability ‘knocked off’ the F5000’s in the class’ first year as Australia’s National Formula 1 (ANF1).

Even Max saw the writing on the wall, he sold his faithful Mildren and replaced it with a Repco Holden powered Elfin MR5.

The ’72 Series comprised established stars; Matich, Bartlett and Stewart, coming men Muir, Walker, McCormack and Brown and some solid ‘journeymen’.

The ‘form’ drivers were Matich and Bartlett but Muir made a great F5000 debut in the just completed Tasman Series.

FM’s Tasman was disappointing having won the AGP upon the A50’s debut in November 1971. He expected to be more competitive in the Tasman only to watch his Kiwi Driver/Constructor rival Graham McRae win the series in his McLaren based Leda LT27/McRae GM1. McRae won 4 rounds and scored points in 5 of the 8 rounds.

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Nice overhead shot by Terry Marshall taken from Wigram’s control tower during the ’72 ‘Lady Wigram Trophy’. FM A50 ‘001/2’ DNF engine. Frank Gardner won the race in his Lola T300. (Terry Marshall)

The Matich team continued to develop their new car, A50 ‘001/2’ throughout the Tasman series as DK recalls ‘…There were some problems in the team during the Tasman. I was homesick and returned to the UK after the ’71 AGP. Whilst Peter Mabey is a top bloke and a great Chief Mechanic most of the rest of the team were not pulling their weight in NZ, doing the all-nighters or whatever was required. So the load fell on Maybey’.

‘Peter had been with FM for 4 years including the build and racing of the SR3 in the ‘States, in fact i was to replace him as Chief Mechanic, but he stayed on once it was clear we were to build a single-seater, something he had not done before. None of that was a drama, we worked well together’.

‘The upshot of the workload and pressure was that Peter left the team after Levin, he had just had enough, as had his wife of the pressures of racing.

FM did the Christchurch and Invercargill rounds with the mechanics.’

‘I had planned and organised with Frank when he was in the UK in late 1971 on Goodyear business, i was working for Surtees, to come back to Oz in the middle of the year. After Peter left Frank rang me and asked that i come back straight away. I arrived in Sydney the Monday after Surfers, Joan (Matich) picked me up from the airport, i went straight to Brookvale and started work on Frank’s joblist for the car. It was at this time the car was given the A50 ‘002’ moniker but it was ‘001’ the same tub; the bodywork was painted in STP colors and the roll bar chrome plated, it appeared different which was a bit of gamesmanship and kept the sponsors happy but it was, and still is the same tub which Bryan Sala now owns. This caused lots of historic grief in later years.’

‘The rear suspension geometry was altered with a lighter rear subframe and raced at Surfers Paradise, where the car was more competitive. The rear suspension geometry was altered again after Surfers (rear roll centre raised) and Frank won the next race at Warwick Farm. The same chassis was used for the rest of the Tasman series, for the successful 1972 Gold Star series and the 1973 Tasman, at its end the car was put on chassis stands at the Brookvale factory’.

Matich won, as Kneller notes at Warwick Farm, his backyard and the circuit at which he primarily honed his cars setup and picked up points in 4 of the 8 Tasman rounds, despite the in team dramas.

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‘C’mon Bob, i will belt them all with one of these’; John Harvey saying to Bob Jane? (in the race suit). ‘Piss-orf Harves, we’ve already got that friggin’ Bowin thing and touring cars are the go anyway!’ or words to that effect!? Bob Jane Racing team owner Bob Jane and driver Harvey checking out KB’s ‘brand spankers’ Lola T300 in the Sandown ‘Victoria Trophy’ dummy grid. (Stupix)

Bartlett also scored 4 times in the Tasman and won at Teretonga. The win was impressive, scored in the McLaren M10B previously owned by Niel Allen. 1972 was that chassis’ third Tasman Series. The reliable old beast was replaced by a brand new Lola T300 for the Gold Star Series KB having watched his friend and mentor, Frank Gardner’s progress in the car concepted by FG as a replacement for Lola’s ageing T190/2 series.

Gardner was Lola’s development driver/engineer. The prototype T300 ‘T242’ made its debut at Thruxton on 1 August 1972. By the end of the season the T300 was the fastest thing in Europe. FG took wins at Hockenheim and Oulton Park in September. In addition he won the 1971 British F5000 Championship with points accumulated in both his T192 and T300.

Mind you, the very fast, Leda LT27/McRae GM1 didn’t break cover until after the end of the British F5000 Championship and was THE CAR in 1972, McRae won the Tasman and US F5000 Championships, both with GM at the wheel.

In Australia Lola T300’s were bought by Bartlett, Bob Muir and F2 driver Gary Campbell stepped up into Gardner’s ’72 Tasman entry.

Ansett Team Elfin were represented by both driver/constructor Garrie Cooper, and John McCormack, the latter became more and more competitive with each 5 litre drive.

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Elfin owner/designer/constructor/racer, the late, great Garrie Cooper in the Sandown pitlane. ‘Victoria Trophy’ 1972. Elfin MR5 Repco. The ‘Tyrrell nose’ were added to the 2 ‘works cars’ during the ’72 Tasman Series, see the pic below of John Walker’s car to show the original spec nose. (Stupix)

The Elfin MR5 Repco’s made their debut in late 1971 and were developed over the 1972 Tasman Series, new Elfins were also bought by Max Stewart and John Walker. By the seasons end Walker acquired a Matich with which to contest the ’73 US Series, the Matich had the safety fuel tanks of the spec required for the L&M Series. And was a faster car.

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John Walker in his Elfin MR5 Repco, Victoria Trophy 1972. (Jay Bondini)

Warwick Brown’s mentor, businessman Pat Burke bought Alan Hamilton’s low mileage ex-Allen spare M10B and made a big impact. Warwick would be a force in F5000/CanAm through to the end of his driving career in both Australasia and the USA.

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Matich prepares for practice, this is the gravel form up area. Victoria Trophy 1972. Matich A50 Repco ‘001/2’.(Stupix)

‘Victoria Trophy’ 16 April 1972…

Matich set pole on 61.5 secs nearly 1 second quicker than McRae’s Tasman pole time only 2 months before. Bob Muir was next on 61.9 and was quick with a new Chev, then came Bartlett, McCormack, Campbell, Max Stewart, Warwick Brown and John Walker. Further back were the ANF2 cars.

A crowd of 20000 in beautiful sunshine were in attendance to see 8 F5000’s and 9 F2’s.

Matich got the jump at the start and was never headed, behind him were Muir, Bartlett, McCormack , Brown, Stewart and Walker.

Stewart slipped past WB but almost immediately dropped a valve in his Repco Holden V8, Walker moved forward then Brown pitted having slowed.

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Kevin Bartlett leads John Mc Cormack into Shell Corner, during their great dice, Sandown. Lola T300 Chev and Elfin MR5 Repco. (Rennie Ellis)

10 laps down Matich lead Muir by 7 seconds who was well clear of KB who was being challenged by the Elfin duo of McCormack and Cooper.

Campbell clobbered the fence at ‘Torana’ corner, Walker was through to 6th, the race came alive with Mac challenging Bartlett on lap 20.

The pair were at it for 6 laps, nose to tail before the Lola yielded to the Elfin MR5, then KB’s engine lost its edge and he retired with ignition failure.

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Bob Muir rolls his immaculate, concourse, positively gorgeous and fast Lola T300 Chev  into ‘Dandy Road’ during his great Victoria Trophy drive. (Jay Bondini)

Muir was driving a great race, now Mac set after him, he had maintained a good pace despite being short of water, eventually the Lola started to smoke badly but Bob was able to keep clear of the Tasmanian to maintain 2nd spot.

Behind Mac were Cooper, Walker, Brown and Malcolm Ramsay in the little Birrana 272 Hart Ford F2 car. This was the prototype of a series of cars which dominated the small bore class in Oz for the next few years.

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Malcolm Ramsay’s Birrana 272 ‘002’ Ford. ‘Victoria Trophy’ Sandown 1972. It was in this chassis Oz touring car star Peter Brock made his single-seater debut in a low key campaign, largely with the assistance of his father, amongst his Holden touring car commitments in 1973. (unattributed)

‘Australian Motor Racing Annual’ noted Matich’s great win and McCormack’s strong drive in 3rd having been ill for most of the week prior.

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Victorian motor trader/racer Clive Millis Elfin 600B Ford F2, ‘Victoria Trophy’ 1972. (Rennie Ellis)

For Matich it was the start of a dominant 1972 Gold Star campaign; he won the series from Kevin Bartlett with wins at Sandown, Oran Park, Surfers’ and Warwick Farm. KB won at Adelaide International and McCormack the Symmons Plains round in his native state of Tasmania.

Frank Matich and the Gold Star…

Arguably FM was Australia’s greatest resident racing driver of the sixties and seventies, certainly he was one of them, despite that he collected only one Gold Star. Why?

FM cut his racing teeth in sportscars in the mid-fifties, quickly progressing through Healeys’ to the Leaton Motors Jaguar C and D Types and Lotus 15 Climax 2.5. Then two Lotus 19’s. He first raced open-wheeler Elfins taking points in the 1963 Gold Star in an Elfin 1.5 Ford, the title won by Bib Stillwell.

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First run in the just arrived Brabham BT7A Climax, Warwick Farm. Its race debut was in the ‘Hordern Trophy’ at Warwick Rarm in December 1963. Bruce Richardson by front wheel. (John Ellacott)

He became serious about his open-wheeler program in 1964, buying the latest ‘Intercontinental’ Brabham, the BT7A. He very quickly got to grips with the 2.7/2.5 litre Coventry Climax FPF engined car. Stillwell maintained his earlier model BT4 for ’64 but again won the championship, Matich took one win.

There was little doubt that FM was the quickest local, a driver who had not yet peaked, whilst Bib, having served a long apprenticeship, was atop the mountain, drove well, was well funded via his car dealerships and had well prepared cars driven with more mechanical sympathy than Matich.

FM lacked reliability which was perhaps, if you believe what was written at the time, a function of being hard on his equipment, his cars equally well prepared, but perhaps not quite as well financed as Stillwell’s.

Matich was equal 4th in the Gold Star in 1964 his speed absolutely confirmed in the 1965 Tasman Series, where his year old, well developed car gave nothing away to any of the Internationals or the latest BT11A Brabham’s driven by Graham Hill, Stillwell or Jack himself.

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In the best of company, and avoiding the 2.25pm train  from Launceston to Hobart…AGP Longford Tasman 1965. Graham Hill Brabham BT11A Climax from Matich in his year old BT7A Climax. (History of the AGP)

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‘Frank led from pole in the 1965 ‘Warwick Farm 100’ but Hill and Clark went by on lap 1 is photographer, John Ellacott’s caption. Matich, light blue Brabham BT7A Climax, Hill in the red Brabham BT11 A Climax and Clark in Lotus 32B Climax. (John Ellacott)

He contested the 1965 Gold Star in the BT7A, his best results two 2nds, the title won again by Stillwell, who, having won 4 on the trot retired from racing.

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Matich on pole in his Elfin 400/Traco Olds, Spencer Martin in the Scuderia Veloce Ferrari 250LM at the start of the 1966 Australian Tourist Trophy, Longford, March. FM won. (Richard Blanden)

Matich refocused on sports cars, he saw greater commercial opportunities as they grew in stature and importance globally.

The Elfin 400 Olds was the first ‘sporty’ in 1966, then followed his self built ‘400 clone’ Matich SR3 Repco which swept all before it in Australia in 1967/68 and in which FM contested the 1967 Can Am series. Click here for my the article about Frank’s Elfin 400;

https://primotipo.com/2015/05/28/elfin-400traco-olds-frank-matich-niel-allen-and-garrie-cooper/

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Early on in the Australian Tourist Trophy at the Longford 1964 Tasman meeting. Frank Gardner Lotus 23B Ford, Bib Stillwell’s #6 Cooper Monaco Climax, Matich’ victorious blue Lotus 19B Climax and Bob Jane’s Lwt Jag E type. Matich won from Stillwell and Greg Cusack’s Elfin Mallala Ford. (oldracephotos.com/Pat Ellis)

Whereas in 1964/5 he continued to race his Lotus 19B as well as the single-seater Brabham, from 1966 to 1969 FM raced sports cars to the exclusion of openwheelers. Sadly.

So Spencer Martin, Kevin Bartlett, Leo Geoghegan, John Harvey and other Australian top liners in single-seaters didn’t have FM ‘in their sandpit’ from 1966 till later in 1969.

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Matich at Warwick Farm in the Repco 4.4 litre ‘620 Series’ V8 powered Matich SR3 in 1968. He raced SR3’s in the Can Am series in 1967, then back in Oz in 1968 whilst the SR4 was being built. (Dick Simpson)

His Matich SR4 powered by Repco’s quad-cam 5 litre ‘760 Series’ V8 was intended as his 1968 Can Am weapon but was finished late and didn’t contest the title won by the McLaren M8A Chevs of McLaren and Hulme.

No way was the SR4, powerful as it was, going to take that title, but it would have been interesting to see how the beautiful handling, spaceframe chassis SR4 would have gone in the ’68 Can Am all the same.

matcih sr4

Frank in the SR4 Repco, Warwick Farm 1969. The formidable, oh-so-fast and dominant Matich. Pretty much destroyed sportscar racing in Australia for a few years such was the cars speed! Car acquired by Repco at years end and became a museum piece whilst still the fastest car in Australia regardless of class. (oldracephotos.com/Dick Simpson)

Instead he raced it in Australia in 1969 and ‘blew the rest of the field off the planet’ taking the national title in a display of absolute engineering and driving dominance. The Repco engine behaved, the valve gear resonance dramas which destroyed Jack and Jochen Rindt’s 1968 F1 season not apparent in the ‘760 Series’ 5 Litre variant of the engine which revved lower than its ‘860 Series’ 3 litre little brother.

can am 1967

FM portrait during his 1967 Can Am campaign. Top shot, so often he is lost in his thoughts, racedays are business days after all! Here in happy mode and the going was tough Stateside! (Dave Friedman)

matich lakeside

FM dicing with Jim Clark at Lakeside’s Kink 1965. Matich rated this race the greatest he had against the greatest driver he raced against. Dice spoiled by a misfire in the Brabham’s engine. Brabham BT7A and Lotus 32B both 2.5 Coventry Climax FPF powered. (unattributed)

Where Does Matich Fit in The Pantheon of Australian Motor Racing Greats?…

One racing’s endless pub topics of debate is ‘whom is better than whom’ both globally and in our particular countries of origin. I’ve always enjoyed these debates secure in the knowledge its pretty much impossible to compare drivers across eras even if a ‘pure statistical’ approach of races entered/won is taken.

Of more interest and perhaps accuracy are the opinions of  ‘expert observers’ of the sport at a particular time commenting on drivers and cars with all relevant factors which should be considered at the time in the context of the time.

‘Australian Motor Racing Annual’, 1968 edition, which did annual driver reviews, had this to say about FM;

‘After being out of the country for 4 months campaigning in the Can Am series (in 1967) Matich came back to take…a comfortable win for his 4th Australian Tourist Trophy. He capped that by taking the outright lap record at  Surfers Paradise and Warwick Farm on the heels of the Tasman cars (defeating Chris Amon in sports car races in a Ferrari P4/Can Am 350 in his Matich SR3 Repco) and clocking the fastest time of the day at Sandown. His now quite confirmed maturity has emphasised his professional approach to the sport and there is no doubt now that he is among the worlds top 6 drivers…’

The other two ‘5 star’ drivers that year were Leo Geoghegan and Kevin Bartlett.

Of Geoghegan the review said ‘Now into the young veteran class but still the most polished GP driver in the country..’

Of KB the review said ‘This extraordinarily fast driver young driver with bags of natural ability…did not have a good season. Nevertheless he established himself as a real tiger in GP racing in this country and there is no doubt in equal machinery only Matich could match him for pace…’

The analysis suits me as FM and KB are my two greatest Australian resident drivers of the 1960 to, say, 1975 period.

Who did i consider in the mix? Lex Davison, Stan Jones, Bib Stillwell, Spencer Martin (boy it would have been good to see him peak, he retired before he did in my opinion), Leo Geoghegan, John Harvey, Max Stewart, John McCormack, John Walker and John Goss.

Outside this mix are Jack and Geoff Brabham, Gardner, Schenken, Walker, Jones, Perkins, Warwick Brown and Bruce Allison who ‘took the hard road’ and left the country to seek success, fame and fortune.

‘Top 6 drivers in the world’ is a big call in relation to FM. Or not?

I am speculating, we all have our own list in early 1968 when the magazine was published before Jim Clark’s death. But a Top 6 drivers in ‘The World Best’ then maybe includes; Clark, Hill, Brabham, Stewart, Gurney and Hulme. Top 6 ‘The Worlds Fastest’ maybe includes; Clark, Stewart, Gurney, Rindt, Amon and Rodriguez.

Whichever way you cut it FM was ‘up there’, famously the only member of the Grand Prix Drivers Association who never raced in an F1 World Championship GP.

And someone who had opportunities to race GP cars in Europe but for family and business reasons chose to race Internationally from his Australian base.

drivers

The company you keep; pre 1964 AGP drivers briefing shot Sandown. L>R; Tony Shelley, Mel McEwin, Denny Hulme, FM, Jack Brabham, Bib Stillwell, Bruce McLaren, Tim Mayer, Doug Whiteford behind the radio commentator, Frank Gardner and Tony Osborne behind FG holding the helmet. (History of The AGP)

But Times They Were A Changin’…

F5000 was being mooted as Australia’s next ANF1, the 2.5 Litre Tasman Formula waning. If ever a single seater class were tailor made for Matich it was this, and so it was that Matich imported the first F5000 to Australia, his McLaren M10A Chev arrived in Sydney in August 1969. FM’s move was a big one as he imported the car before the decision by CAMS had been made, politically it was smart as it added to the pressure to go the F5000 route.

It’s an arcane point but perhaps the first competition outing of an ‘F5000 car’ in Australia was Jim Abbott’s Hillclimb of his ex-Gardner/Bartlett Brabham BT23D Traco Olds at Lakeland Hillclimb on Melbourne’s eastern outskirts on 31 May 1969?

abbott

Melbourne ‘Age’ June 4 1969.

Matich and his McLaren M10A in 1969, certainly Australia’s first ‘real F5000’…

DK recalls; ‘Frank’s first F5000 was a McLaren M10A (# 300-10), coloured pale yellow it arrived in Australia at the beginning of August 1969. I crated the chassis at Frank Williams workshop before leaving for Australia, I arrived on 11 August’.

‘The engine was a Traco Chev on carbs Frank shipped from the ‘States. The chassis arrived at Frank’s Castle Cove workshop on 13 August. Peter Mabey and I assembled it, i made and mounted the rear wing. The car had an LG600 Hewland gearbox. It was first tested at Warwick Farm the Friday before it’s first race, Frank finished 3rd to the Mildren twins, Bartlett and Max Stewart’.

matich 2

Kris Matich watching dad carefully prepare himself in his new McLaren M10A Chev ‘300-10’, first race for an F5000 in Australia, Warwick Farm September 7 1969. Decals on wings are ‘Rothmans Team Matich’. (Derek Kneller)

matich m10a wf

Matich practising the M10A Chev before its first WF meeting, Saturday 6 September 1969. Decals on cars side are Repco, Bell and Firestone. (lyntonh)

Click here for YouTube footage of that race at Warwick Farm;

‘The week after the race we stripped the car down and painted the chassis two-tone blue, royal blue at the top, light blue at the bottom. The nose was reshaped to accommodate a lightweight aluminium radiator. The car’s next race was at Calder in outer Melbourne, we tested it a couple of times at Amaroo Park before changing the engine spec to fuel injection and the gearbox to the smaller, lighter Hewland DG300 before the 1970 Tasman Series in which Frank competed together with the 2.5 litre Tasman cars’.

‘The car we took to the Tasman was essentially an M10B in all but name. I built M10A’s at McLaren and built the first M10B, Peter Gethin’s car at McLaren, not Trojan before coming to Australia, so knew exactly what changes to make. Not sure why FM didn’t buy an M10B, but maybe he wasn’t aware of the updated car at the time he placed his order.’

matich pukekohe

Matich on his way to victory, NZ GP Pukekohe 1970. Flag to flag win fron pole. McLaren M10A Chev. (Garry Simkin Collection/ The Roaring Season)

1970 was a transition year in Australia, whilst that summers Tasman Series was for both Tasman 2.5 and F5000 cars the Gold Star series was for Tasman 2.5 cars only albeit the Australian GP that November was for both categories. Go figure? The choice of our next ANF1 between 2 Litres (Euro F2 became 2 litres in 1972) and F5000 was fraught and so was the transition to F5000 once CAMS made that choice.

With more luck Matich could have taken the 1970 Tasman, he started in NZ with a bang; 3rd in the first round at Levin, he won the NZ GP at Pukekohe and on Wigram’s airfield circuit the following weekend. The team missed the Teretonga round to give them time to rebuild their only Chev engine which had done nearly 1000 miles, before the three Australian races. These were as bad as the Kiwi ones were good! FM was 4th at Surfers, broke an upright at his home track, Warwick Farm and then had a throttle cable break at Sandown’s final round.

Graeme Lawrence won the title, the Kiwi drove the Ferrari Dino 246 Tasman car which won in Amon’s hands in 1969.

matich surfers

‘Feel The Earth Move’; 5 litres of fuel injected Traco Chev blasting along Surfers main straight, FM about to tip the beast flat out in 5th into Surfers daunting right hander under Dunlop Bridge. McLaren M10A  8 Feb 1970. To all intents and purposes car is to M10B spec as per the text. 4th, race won by McRae’s similar car. (Dick Simpson)

Matich sat out the 1970 Gold Star Series, his F5000 McLaren ineligible but he was working hard with Repco to develop an F5000 variant of Holden’s then new ‘308’ V8…

This engine, designed by Phil Irving, also the designer of Repco’s ‘620 Series’ V8 which won Brabham’s 1966 World Titles, promptly won the 1970 AGP, having made its debut in Matich’s new McLaren M10B (#400-10) on 12 July at Warwick Farm.

matich 1

Historic debut for FM’s very successful and tubbed at least 3 times! McLaren M10B Repco ‘400-10’ and the new Repco Holden F5000 engine. Warwick Farm 12 July 1970. (oldracingcars.com)

Matich won the AGP from pole also taking fastest lap, close to a perfect weekend. Niel Allen’s M10B Chev was 2nd and Graeme Lawrence’ Ferrari Dino 246T 3rd.

DK; ‘The Repco engines were bloody good, extremely good, the engineering precision was excellent. Everything was made by Repco, the rockers were forged steel, it had articulated rockers to resist the bending motion which breaks them, it had cast magnesium rather than aluminium manifolds. It was just a beautifully engineered and built engine. We had about 460bhp at the start, that rose to about 480-490 by Tasman ’73 and the flat plane crank engines gave about 520bhp when they came on stream in the ‘States in early ’73. Other drivers didn’t believe the power we had such was the strength of the engines, they had strong torque characteristics. The problems with Repco were around fiddly things. For example, we were forever changing head gaskets in the field, gaskets lifed to 4 hours had 3 hours use on the dyno when an engine was delivered, meaning a change in the workshop or at a meeting. Checking of valve clearances with limited time before a session or race and then having them leak, that kind of thing.’

‘We always had a Repco engineer, often Ken Symes to look after the engines at race meetings. The engines were great, Repco’s ability to solve problems was excellent but some of their procedures were a bit nutty! Despite wanting dyno-sheets and they produced them of course, we were never given them but the engines had plenty of power and torque.’

matich m10b 1970 agp

Matich in Warwick Farms Esses during his victorious 1970 AGP drive. 22 November 1970. McLaren M10B Repco ‘400-10’. (Rory McDonald)

surfers 71

Happy in victory of the ‘Surfers Paradise 100’; FM, team and Mc Laren M10B Repco. Surfers Tasman round Feb 1971. (unattributed)

The new Matich McLaren M10B Repco looked a good bet for the 1971 Tasman Series but Graham McRae had a very potent M10B of his own which was continually modified by McRae in a successful UK F5000 campaign in 1970.

The Series was dominated by these 2 drivers and Niel Allen who showed his mettle with 2 wins in his M10B. He took the NZ GP at Pukekohe and the Teretonga round with his well developed chassis and powerful Chev, both courtesy of Peter Molloy his race engineer.

McRae took wins at Levin, Wigram and Sandown and the title by 4 points from Matich. Frank had great reliability from his new Repco, if not quite as much ultimate grunt. He won at Surfers, was second at Pukekohe, Wigram and Teretonga and took third at Sandown, he was only out of the points in two rounds.

matich laguna seca 1971

Frank Matich on his way to 2nd at Laguna Seca, second round of the US L&M Series in May 1971, David Hobbs in another M10B won the race. Here Matich is lapping # 57 Monte Sheldon Eagle Mk5 Chev and # 86 Gregg Paterson McLaren M10A Chev. (Derek Kneller)

Matich took his McLaren, razor sharp after it’s 1971 Tasman campaign to the US L&M F5000 championship, taking in the first two rounds at Riverside on 25 April and Laguna Seca on 2 May.

DK;’ We had gradually modified the car quite a lot including fitting 13 inch front wheels to make use of tyres of the type developed in F1, before we went to the US we increased the cars wheelbase by making changes to the front suspension, the car was very quick there’

He won and finished second in this ‘hit and run campaign’ before heading home to Australia, much to the relief of the series regulars!

DK;’ We took the whole equipe to California, we shipped the car by air and the truck and trailer by sea. We based ourselves at Carroll Shelby’s workshop in LA, it was there we met Carroll Smith who team managed our campaign in the US in 1973. We only had 1 Repco engine though, it was relatively early in the Repco program remember. The engine had done the 2 US meetings and plenty of testing. That and the fact that FM had commitments to sponsors back in Australia meant we had to come home’.

hordern trophy

Dale Harvey’s lovely portrait of FM in the newly rebuilt McLaren Repco, now designated M10C in deference to its various Matich mods. ‘Hordern Trophy’ Warwick Farm 5 Sept 1971. DNF in the race won by KB’s M10B Chev. Car has a new tub, built up by the Matich team around the cars bulkheads as part of the ‘education process’ in gaining monocoque experience, the new A50 being built at the same time this car was being rebuilt after its June accident at Oran Park with an errant Lotus 7. (Dale Harvey)

In a busy year Matich contested some rounds of the 1971 Gold Star series. He missed the first round at Lakeside, not yet back from the US, Bartlett took the win in his M10B. He crashed the car before the Oran Park meeting on the Thursday, a Lotus 7 inadvertently getting in his way and doing enough damage for the car to be retubbed.

He bounced back to win at Surfers in August in the newly rebuilt car now dubbed M10C in deference to its various Matich mods and chassis repair in Australia.

He retired at Warwick Farm and at Sandown with jammed throttle slides, Bartlett again winning. He didn’t contest the Symmons Plains and Mallala rounds.

Max Stewart took the title with one win but a mix of speed and reliability gave him a 1 point victory for the title over Bartlett, who won twice.

agp win

FM on the last victorious lap of the 1971 AGP at Warwick Farm, upon the Matich A50 Repco ‘001/2’ debut. WF Esses, car looking beautifully balanced. (lyntonh)

Design and Construction of the Matich A50 Repco…

Matich’s McLaren M10B/C was raced in both Australasia and the US, the car an amalgam of his teams ideas and feedback via a development program with Trojan Industries in the UK, the makers of customer McLaren cars.

Matich had learned all he needed to know about ‘what makes an F5000 tick in 1969 and 1970’ ‘We’d developed the McLaren as far as it would go. It was time to move on to something else’, Matich told John Smailes in an interview for ‘The Australian Motor Racing Annual’ in 1971.

In terms of the cars design principles FM’…wanted as durable and maintainable a car as possible with inbuilt strength far greater than many F5000’s being built today’.

Economy of maintenance was important, the Matich ‘triangulated monocoque’ ‘built on the same principles as a space frame-with the same comparative ease of repair and maintenance’.

DK;’ FM, Peter Mabey and designer/draftsman Henry Nehrbecki (HN) and i had endless discussions about what we wanted in the car, its design attributes. We didn’t really consider a side radiator car then. FM liked weight over the front wheels, the radiators up front helped that. He also knew what the tyres needed from his Goodyear testing contract. We went along with what we knew in terms of loadings, feel etc. The tub was neater and easier to make than the M10B, all the fuel was in the side pods, not as we sometimes had to do with the McLaren use the scuttle tanks.’

Frank’s team had the capacity to build their own cars. The very successful SR3 and SR4 spaceframe sportscars were built by Matich and a group of subcontractors in Sydney and in Melbourne for the castings.

DK; ‘Whilst the team had built spaceframes none of them had built a monocoque before. Perhaps Henry had some of that experience in the UK, i’m not sure. When FM bent the M10B at Oran Park we decided to repair the tub at Brookvale to give us some monocoque experience. We unpicked the bent tub down to its bulkheads and used it as an exercise to see how they were made. We leased an industrial riveting unit to be able to use the same type of aircraft rivets as i was familiar with at Mclarens’

The first drawings of the ‘A50’ were commenced by HN and FM in November 1970 a year before its victorious debut in the 1971 Australian Grand Prix. ‘A’ was for Formula A or 5000, ’50’ the number of years at the time the projects prime sponsor, Repco had manufactured automotive components in Australia.

matich front

Brand new A50 about to roll onto the trailer for the trip to Warwick Farm, this is the Brookvale workshop where the car was built, November 1971. Of note is the cars shape and front radiator design, the ‘trend setting’ Lotus 72 chisel nose/side rad F1 car appeared in early 1970. Still plenty of front rad competitive cars in F1 at this time mind you. Note also the wide based wishbone front suspension, magnesium CAC built uprights, shocks are alloy bodied Koni’s. (Derek Kneller)

The car comprised ‘…three sections-a detachable front, central monocoque tub and detachable rear holding the engine. Eight bolts hold the rear (A frame) section in place, six bolts secure the front. In the event of an accident or undue flexing it’s a simple matter to bolt on a replacement section’, Matich said.

DK;’ We didn’t have the necessary folders to work with sheet aluminium so John Joyce at Bowins (Bowin Racing Cars in Brookvale) did some of that work and built the unique to A50 ‘001’ front and rear bulkheads which were Tig welded. Peter and i built up the tub and HN made most of the suspension components in nickel bronze. I wanted them Tig’d and grumbled about that, the first suspension and spares were nickel bronze welded’.

The clever part of the cars design was this ‘modular concept’.

During the F5000 program the team built 6 monocoques; 3 at the Brookvale workshop behind the Brookvale Mall shopping centre 17 Km from Sydney, the other 3 were built in a batch by the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation (CAC) at Fishermans Bend, 6 Km from Melbourne in early 1973.

The cars remained competitive throughout the formula by the team ‘playing with’ weight distribution, track/wheelbases and aerodynamics (later cars were side-rad/chisel noses) by the use of different front and rear fabricated sheet steel detachable sections, bellhousings and of course bodywork and wings. All the while using the same tub design from 1971 to 1974. Noting the A53 won the Australian Grand Prix in John Goss’ hands in 1976 and was still competitive beyond that…that their was nothing wrong with the tubs or the underlying design philosophy is clear.

25 gallons of fuel in total, is carried in the tubs side pontoons, the fuel contained in locally made puncture proof foam cells. DK;’ Frank wanted as much of the car as possible made in Australia, he was a real patriot in that way. We could have had the fuel cells made by Goodyear free via our tyre contract but instead had them made by a Dunlop subsidiary about an hour from Melbourne. It also gave us better control of the product’.

Instruments comprised Smiths mechanical tach, oil pressure and water temperature gauges. The gear change for the ubiquitous Hewland DG300 ‘box was on the right and the steering wheel was a ‘half moon’, round at the top and flattened at the bottom, sensibly, to ease access and egress into the car.

paddock rear

Matich A50 ‘001/2’ and McLaren M10C Repco ‘400-10’ in the 1971 WF AGP pit. The Rothmans/Repco machines were raced by Matich with touring car star; although he had quite a bit of single seater background in his past, Colin Bond. See cockpit details referred to in text. Of note the front location points of the radius rods to the rear of the tub, front top wishbone and aluminium sheet monocoque itself, each side pontoon contained 12.5 gallons of Avgas. Valve clearances being checked, RHS rocker cover sitting between the injection trumpets. (Derek Kneller)

The challenges of building cars at the time are interesting, FM ‘…The A50 was an extremely difficult car to build or to build accurately, we went through three draftsmen before we got the car completed’. You can never build a good car from the drawing board. You can build a pretty one-but not one which is functional. You can’t draw in three dimensions, at least not successfully. It’s very much a matter of trial. You build a tub, see if you like it and if you don’t you throw it away. It’s far more expensive but you get a better car in the long run’.

The days of CADCAM were still a long way off in 1971!

wheel alignment

The new A50 coming together in the teams Brookvale workshop and about to be wheel aligned for the first time. Sans wings obviously. Car alongside is the teams McLaren M10C Repco, recently repaired and to be driven by Colin Bond in the 1971 AGP. (Shane Lee)

The cars wheels were cast by the CAC in Melbourne; the rears in both 13 and 15 inch diameters and widths of between 15 and 17 inches. The fronts were 13 inches in diameter with widths of between 10 to 11.5 inches.

Front suspension was identical in layout to the SR4; FM ‘unequal length wishbones with the bottom arms reaching forward to the bottom of the radiator and the top arms swinging backwards to the chassis bulkhead’.

The rear suspension used, typically for the day, a single top link, twin parallel links at the bottom, twin radius rods for fore and aft location and coil spring damper units. Shocks were Koni double adjustable alloys and adjustable sway bars were fitted front and rear.

Steering was by Matich rack and pinion, again cast by CAC in Melbourne.

The cars engine was the Repco Holden F5000 unit, designed by Phil Irving, based on Holden’s then new production ‘308’ V8, the engine a story in itself. Matich was Repco’s factory driver, the engines also available for sale or lease to customers, and gave ‘460-470 horsepower at 7200 revs’ at the time.

rear paddiock

Rear suspension detail shot in the 1971 Warwick Farm AGP paddock. Of note is the wing design, ‘banana wings’ still a year or so away. Oil reservoir is beside the Hewland DG300 gearbox. Suspension; single upper link, two lower parallel links clear as are coil spring inside which are Koni shocks. 2 Radius rods provide fore and aft location. ‘Butch’ splined driveshafts and big exhausts, Repco engine giving circa 460-470 bhp @ this stage of its development. (Derek Kneller)

matich trailer

Hi-ho, hi-ho its orf to the ‘farm we go. Peter Mabey rolls A50 ‘001/2’ onto the elaborate! Matich Team trailer enroute to a 1971 AGP victory. (Derek Kneller)

1971 Australian Grand Prix, Warwick Farm…

DK;’ The A50 was finished on the Thursday before WF. We did 25 laps bedding in brakes, tyres and the engine and FM simply ran away with the race’.

Graham Howard’s ‘History of The Australian Grand Prix’; ‘If the pundits thought that Frank Matich’s efforts in getting a brand new car to run faultlessly (and fastest) in practice was a remarkable effort, they-along with everyone else at Warwick Farm-were stunned with what he and his A50 did in the race. And that was to lead flag to flag, have no-one seriously challenge him, set the fastest lap, slow by up to two seconds a lap in the later stages and still beat his nearest rival home by a fraction of a second less than 1 minute, or 2/3’s of a lap’.

Bartlett and Alan Hamilton were 2nd and 3rd in their M10B Chev’s. Gardner’s Lola T300 didn’t contest the race after a jammed throttle and ensuing prang in practice damaged the car. John Surtees competed in his own TS8 Chev in a field of depth comprising both F5000 and 2 litre cars which were always quick on the tight, technical, testing WF layout.

agp

FM on the way to an historic 1971 AGP victory upon the debut of A50 ‘001/2’. Warwick Farm. (History of The AGP)

Youtube footage of 1971 AGP…

The 1972 Tasman Series I covered in brief earlier in this article. Ditto the 1972 Gold Star. Therefore the A50’s performance in those Championships we have already covered way back at the start of this epic….

tasman 73

The top cars of the 1973 Tasman series here shot at Sandown ‘on the fast gallop’ towards ‘The Causeway’. Matich in A50 Repco, McCormack’s continually developed Elfin MR5 Repco, McRae’s new GM1 Chev and Max Stewart’s new Lola T330 Chev. The only missing car  from ‘The Class of ’73’  is a Chevron B24 Chev. (Robert Davies)

Equally good bets for the 1973 Tasman Series were Matich and McRae, the former fresh from his ’72 Gold Star win and continually developed A50 chassis.

McRae took victory in the ultra competitive 1972 US F5000 ‘L&M Championship’ and was armed with a new GM1, an update of the prior years Leda LT27.

And so it proved that McRae took his third Tasman title on the trot, Graham finished with 40 points, John McCormack 2nd on 29 points in the ageing but fast Elfin MR5 Repco with Matich, the ‘factory Repco’ driver 3rd on 27 points in his A50.

matich puke

FM’s A50 leads Graham McRae’s GM1 on his outside, John McCormack Elfin MR5 and Max Stewart’s Lola T330 into the chicane ‘rumble strip’ on lap one of the 1973 NZGP at Pukekohe. He is in tight as GM has made a lunge on the outside. FM is about to hit the the strip and damage the steering arm, out of the race. (Derek Kneller Collection)

The ’73 Tasman was the most open for years and demonstrated the depth of F5000 fields and plethora of competitive chassis; Allan Rollinson won in a customer McRae at Teretonga, Steve Thompson in a Firestone shod Chevron B24 at a very wet Warwick Farm. Wins for Matich at Surfers Paradise, McRae at Levin, Wigram and Sandown and McCormacks two Elfin MR5 wins at Pukekohe and Adelaide, the first and last races of the series showed no one chassis was dominant.

Max Stewart made a strong debut for the very first Lola T330. ‘HU1’ was Frank Gradner’s prototype, was works entered and supervised by FM during the series. Max was quick, it was a Lola T330 and Jody Scheckter onslaught Matich would encounter in the US in 1973.

wigram 2

Derek Kneller and John Anderson fuel the A50 at Wigram 1973. Ken Symes of Repco. Good shot of the ‘blown diffuser’! and related bracketry to locate it. (Derek Kneller)

DK; ‘At Pukekohe FM was on pole and lead but then had an accident. He put a wheel onto the makeshift chicane, and bent the steering arm, it was a race we should have won. At Levin we were 2nd. At Wigram 4th with an engine misfire. At Teretonga we started on wets, the weather improved, we changed to dry tyres then it rained and FM spun. At Surfers we won from flag to flag. At Warwick Farm Steve Thomson’s Firestone wets won the day, FM was 2nd. At Sandown the car was 4th with a puncture and in Adelaide he retired with fuel pump failure’.

a 51 mid ohio

Matich A51 ‘005’ in the Mid Ohio paddock 1973. FM 13th, in chassis ‘006’ in the race won by Jody Scheckter, John Walker 11th in his A50 ‘004’. Notice the dual rear wing setup, inspection holes in side of monocoque, long swept back top front suspension link (compared with the later A52/3). Above the airbox on the other side of the paddock is Walker’s A50 complete with dual rear wing setup. (Terry Capps)

Frank Matich ignored the domestic Gold Star Series in 1973 to mount an onslaught on the US L&M F5000 Championship in two new cars, Matich A51 Repco’s…

The new cars incorporated all of the teams knowledge racing the A50, FM’s role as a tester for Goodyear racing tyres, for whom he was the Australian distributor and the market intelligence gained in the ’73 Tasman Series.

He knew the relative strengths of the Chevron B24/8, Lola T330 and McRae GM1, his primary competitors stateside that year. The challenge was to build a car to beat them and ship it to California before the first round on 23 April at Riverside.

Kneller recalls the build of the A51’s;

‘In later 1972/early 1973 the Commonweath Aircraft Corporation (CAC) in Melbourne built 3 new chassis’ using drawings supplied by Matich. The CAC had spare capacity as the Vietnam War was over, they did a lot of aircraft maintenance work during the conflict. We knew them well from the castings they had made for us back to the SR3 days. After the ’72 Tasman the A50 was in Melbourne for the motor show. We then took the car to CAC at Fishermans Bend for them to look at, they quoted a price about a third of what it would cost us inhouse so we had them make the tubs for us’.

‘The first arrived in November ’72. We started to build up a new car for the ’73 Tasman, FM even got a logbook for ‘005’ from CAMS but the project ran late mainly due to fuel cell delays so we used A50 ‘001/2′ again in the ’73 Tasman, which still had done maybe 15 meetings. No car was faster in Australia at the time’.

‘The tubs were basically identical to the A50 chassis (all 3 of which were built at the Matich, Brookvale, Sydney workshop) apart from a different riveting system; the skins were dimpled with a countersunk hole and countersunk rivets used to give a stronger joint and also a flush finish’.

‘These chassis were also lighter and torsionally stiffer than the previous ‘Brookvale’ monocoques, and came with a grey anodised finish to the inside skins’. Two of the three new tubs were built into A51’s, leaving one spare.

a51's in build

A51’s in build early 1973 in Matich ‘shop Military Road, Cremorne, Sydney. You can feel the intensity just looking at this shot, there is so much going on! Cars from front to back; A51 ‘006’, A51 ‘005’ and the much raced A50 ‘001/2’, still in its post Tasman ’73 ‘warpaint’. Note CAC built A51 tubs, inspection hatches open awaiting fuel cells. Note also rear ‘A frames’ to support 5 litre ‘flat plane crank’ Repco Holden 520bhp V8. Hewland DG300 ‘box. (Derek Kneller)

Derek continues’ A51 Repco ‘005’ was built in early 1973 in the Matich Racing Cremorne workshop in Military Road. It had a chrome roll hoop, the radius of the bend was smaller than the A50, (making the car easy to pick in relation to an A50 to the trained eye).

There were changes to the front and rear suspension geometry and a redesigned rear lower suspension mounting frame compared to the A50.

The radiators were the same light weight aluminium GM rads previously used on the A50. Onboard fire extinguishers were fitted.

All suspension components were finished black by a chemical process in house, there was a slightly different shape nose with a larger radiator inlet at the front. The car also had a lower rear wing mounted behind the gearbox approx 150mm off the ground with the exhaust blowing over its top surface.’

‘A new brand of wheel was used in the USA, these ‘Mel Mag’s’ were English and were delivered to the Riverside first round of the series, they were lighter than the Matich cast magnesium wheels as used on the A50.’ The Matich wheels and uprights were cast by CAC in Melbourne. ‘A51 ‘006’  was built alongside ‘005’, it had a black roll hoop and was of identical spec to ‘005.’

‘Both chassis’ were taken to the USA. ‘005’ was shaken down for a few laps at Warwick Farm before going to the US, ‘006 was not. ‘005’ was used in the first 2 races but after Laguna we raced ‘006’ as well.’

‘We were the only team in the series that had a spare car. Both cars were prepared for FM’s use at all 5 races. Frank set up and practiced both cars at all meetings, Vern Schuppan drove chassis ‘006’ in practice at Watkins Glen’.

riverside pits

Riverside ’73 pits. ‘Both cars stripped of their crown wheel and pinion assy’s so a ‘high tech treatment’ could be applied by an aerospace company in LA, the cars back together by the next day’. (Derek Kneller)

riverside 3

Riverside ’73 garage again. John Anderson behind the rear wheel of ‘006’ Derek on the front of ‘005’. (Derek Kneller)

riverside

The 2 brand spanking new A51’s ready to roll in the Riverside pitlane. ‘006’ closest has never run, ‘005’ did a few laps of Warwick Farm before leaving Oz. (Derek Kneller)

Gordon Kirby made the following observations about the Australian onslaught in his ‘Autosport’ Riverside race report; ‘Frank Matich’s capacious Early Racing Enterprises transporter contained two completed, brand new Matich Repco A51’s and like Brian Redman went equally well with each car…The A51’s have a couple of extra inches in the wheelbase as well as an engine which is half an inch lower than in the A50. With Carroll Smith directing the Penfolds Wine sponsored team, there was a lot of experimentation going on throughout the week. The cars went from brand new to fully race worthy in an incredibly short space of time; so much that Matich didn’t select which of the equally competitive cars to race until Sunday morning’.

riverside 2

A51 ‘005’ behind the Riverside pit wall 1973. (Derek Kneller)

In fact Matich’s ability to choose between 2 cars of which to race, FM wanting to compete in each of the 2 heats with different cars, and then make his chassis choice for the final, lead to ‘The Matich Rule’ to disallow just what FM proposed!

The A51’s were fast, but the ‘game changing’ Lola T330 (and it’s 1974 T332 successor) was the greatest F5000 car ever. Full stop.

Coupled with the speed of the Lola’s and the individual genius of Jody Scheckter in Ron Tauranac’s Trojan T101, Team Matich ran into engine problems, the Repco Holden engined cars oil systems not scavenging properly on the fast, long radius turns not encountered in Australasia.

watkins glen

Matich A51’s ‘006’ and ‘005’ in the Watkins Glen pitlane. A Chevron B24 behind. ‘On ‘006’ the lower rear wing was removed and an extra oil coller added to try to sort the engine problems’. DK in yellow t-shirt. (Derek Kneller)

watkins garage

Pre race prep in the Watkins Glen garages, lower rear wing being removed from ‘006’ in front. Flat plane crank engine fitted.(Derek Kneller)

watkins from above

‘006’ at Watkins Glen from above sans lower rear wing. June 1973. (Derek Kneller)

watkins glen pitlane

A51 ‘006’ and ‘005’ in the Watkins Glen pitlane. (Derek Kneller)

Derek Kneller well recalls long nights coping with the dramas in the US;

‘The cars did not perform as expected we had a handling problem on the latest spec Goodyear’s and the bumpy nature of the US circuits. The tyres weren’t identical to those we tested before going to the US. FM wasn’t the only driver testing the F5000 tyres, the final production tyres we were presented were different, so we were playing catch-up. The cars were still as fast as any at Riverside’.

‘The biggest problem was engine related; the higher cornering speeds of the US circuits threw up a scavenge problem in the Repco engines, this seemed to get worse as the season went on and at Watkins Glen the crankshaft bearings were damaged in both cars during practice and both were withdrawn from the race.’

‘We never actually blew an engine, the bearing wear was detected in routine checks by dropping the oil pans off the engines at the end of each day. It was important we didn’t blow engines given Repco’s push into the US at the time. Frank could feel the loss of power through the corners and then a surge of power ‘like a handbrake being released’ FM said as the car came off some corners. He compensated to save the engines by using less rpm’s, 7000 rather than 8000 which of course reflected in the lap times. To save the engines we also did less testing.’

‘At the start of the season the A51 was as competitive as the T330 but its development accelerated with so many drivers and teams running and experimenting with the T330’s’.

‘Straight after the race weekend at Watkins Glen chassis ‘006’ was flown back to Sydney with me so that the handling and engine problems could be sorted. Chassis ‘005’ was left in the States with the rest of the team.’

‘On returning to Sydney the engine problem was overcome, an additional scavenge pump was added to scavenge oil from above the camshaft. Oil was being retained in the valley above the camshaft in the longer fast corners causing oil starvation in the oil tank, leading to bearing failure.’

After the engine problem was sorted it was decided to redesign the chassis to overcome the handling deficiencies, hence the A52 design’.

‘The best A51 result was 5th at Michigan although Frank ran in the first 3 at the Riverside first round until he had gear shift problems’.

Brian Redman opened the T330’s account at the season opening Riverside round, Matich was 17th. The team entered the Michigan, Mid Ohio and Watkins Glen rounds, in the latter the cars did not start as Kneller related. Jody Scheckter took the series driving the Trojan T101, he also drove a T330 in two rounds. The Trojan was good but Jody was better, he made his GP debut in a Mclaren M23 later in 1973.

That year Aussies John Walker, Matich A50, Bob Muir, Kevin Bartlett and Max Stewart all Lola T330 mounted contested some L&M rounds. Their results and experiences would be an interesting story in itself, perhaps one Kevin Bartlett would be prepared to relate in a later article. Its a tangent too far for this already long piece.

matich a52 wf

Matich A52 Repco ‘006’ on test at Warwick Farm in September 1973. First Matich F5000 with side rads and chisel nose. Repco ‘flat plane’ crank 520bhp engine. Melmag wheels. The thing that struck me about this car when i saw it race at Surfers in 1973 was just how small a car it was. It had the same wheelbase as a T330 but it was beautifully packaged. (Derek Kneller)

The Short Life of Matich A52 Repco ‘006’, late 1973…

As DK relates above apart from the engine dramas, there were improvements to the chassis needed to remain competitive, the game had quickly moved on from the early Tasman months of 1973 as the US teams developed their cars from the production spec delivered by their English makers.

DK; ‘The A52 was built using the A51 ‘006’ chassis and rear end but with a longer engine/gearbox adaptor (bellhousing) giving a 2inch longer (50mm) wheelbase than the A51, this was in line with the Lola T330′.

‘The radiators were moved to the sides of the chassis along with modifications to the engine water pump so that each radiator cooled the opposite side cylinder head and were shrouded with aluminum ductings’.

‘The oil tank was repositioned behind the lefthand radiator (from beside the cars gearbox, outside its wheelbase) and the battery moved from the front of the car to above the bellhousing’.

At the front of the chassis the steering rack was moved from the chassis itself to a heavily redesigned front subframe. The top pick up point for the shock absorber/spring assembly was raised approx 1 1/4 inch (30mm) along with a redesigned lower wishbone and new front uprights. These mods gave an increase in front suspension movement’.

‘To complete the design a chisel shaped nose made from fibre glass was added, the complete car was about 10 Kg lighter than the A51’.

‘The A52 was tested extensively by Frank at Warwick Farm during late July/early August 1973 with a hope of returning to the US series, but a problem with the sponsors in the US prevented this happening’.

‘The A52’s only race was the Gold Star race, the ‘Glynn Scott Memorial Trophy’ at Surfers Paradise on 2 Sepember 1973 when fitted with a flat plane crank Repco F5000 engine. This gave over 520hp and sounded like a Cosworth DFV on steroids! (The two-plane Repco engine gave circa 495bhp@7000rpm)

FM led the race setting fastest lap before retiring with battery failure, the high frequency vibration from the engine shook the internals of the Varley battery apart.’

‘The car was comprehensively destroyed in a test session at Warwick Farm in late September whilst driven by Bob Muir. The chassis was beyond repair, both outer and inner skins were damaged. The photos show damage from the car hitting the water-sprinkler system at Warwick Farm, 50mm diameter steel pipes at great speed’.

‘Frank was not happy as he had just left the circuit after a successful session and had let Bob have a drive to get another drivers opinion of the car, Bob had been driving a Lola T330 Chev in the US’.

a52 tub rear

The rooted A52 ‘006’ back at the Matich workshop. (Derek Kneller)

a 52 tub side

Another angle, tub clearly beyond economic repair. This tub at some stage was sent back to CAC in Melbourne, having sat at the back of the Matich workshop in Cremorne until 1977/8, but was never seen again. (Derek Kneller)

The death of the A52 was a bummer to say the least. Muir was happy to have had the prang in the strong Matich tub not a T330! Clearly the team were heading in the right direction with a car that was as fast or faster than the the best in Australia at the time; both Bartlett and Stewart were racing their T330 Chevs at Surfers on the day FM was running away with the ‘Glynn Scott Memorial Trophy’ and both were razor sharp having, like Matich, been racing in the US L&M.

The A52 was undeniably fast, but the team now needed to build another car and again had the chance to make further changes from the A52 to a 1974 Tasman Championship contender, the series commencement only a few short months away at Levin, NZ on January 5 1974.

matich oran park

Frank Matich testing his brand new car in considerable pain, at Oran Park on 1 February 1974. Matich A53 Repco ‘007’. Compact dimensions, beautiful contemporary lines, side rads and oil tank behind LH side radiator duct clear to see. (unattributed)

The 1974 Tasman Series Competition and Frank’s contender, the Matich A53 Repco ‘007’…

John Mc Cormack won the first of his Gold Star’s in 1973 with fast, consistent performances in his evergreen, cleverly developed Elfin MR5 Repco. Garrie Cooper had built a new car, the Repco Leyland powered MR6, a superb, small car styled in the mould of the Tyrrell 006. The aluminium block V8 was around 100 pounds lighter than the Holden but, as was later to be revealed the weight reduction was offset by the inherent deficiencies of the engine itself. The MR6 would find success in 1975, but Repco Holden engined. In the meantime Mac’s old Elfin was a race winner in NZ in 1974.

Bartlett, Walker and Stewart returned with their Lola T330’s. Unfortunately KB’s campaign was cut short by a Pukekohe shunt which broke his ankle, leg and hip. KB’s return to racing and his win at Bathurst with John Goss the following October was as heroic as Warwick Brown’s return to racing in the first production Lola T332 ‘HU27’ that summer of ’74.

Warwick was hobbling around the Surfers paddock at the Gold Star meeting in September ’73, no way did i think he would be back in harness in January given his physical state then. But he was and won the final Tasman round in Adelaide. Former Kiwi Tasman champ Graeme Lawrence was back in another new T332 having run a 2 Litre Surtees in 1973, and himself survived an horrific accident in his then new Lola T300 in 1972.

Lawrence, Bartlett and Brown were all foundation members of the ‘Lola Limpers Club’ and fortunately all are well and truly still with us!

Graham McRae was back in the GM2, a superb ‘McLarenesque’ chisel nosed, side radiator car, which convincingly won the 1973 AGP at Sandown on 4 November. FM didn’t contest the ’73 AGP as Bob Muir had destroyed his mount, the A52.

Count Rudi van der Straten was back again with Teddy Pilette and Peter Gethin in Chevron B24’s, both cars were converted to the latest B28 spec during the Tasman.

Perhaps the Series was slightly ‘skinnier’ in terms of international representation than 1973 but there was still a formidable field of top class drivers in the best F5000’s of the day.

Again Derek Kneller provides his firsthand account of building the Matich A53…

‘The car was built using the final CAC tub and was a refinement of the A52.

Both the front and rear suspension geometry was changed having longer wishbones to smooth out roll and bump conditions. The front subframe was redesigned to accomodate an improved steering rack mount and another inch was added to the bellhousing to give a longer wheelbase.

front suspension detail

Matich A53 ‘007’ front suspension and subframe detail, Oran Park Feb 1974. Suspension upper and lower wishbones, coil spring/Koni dampers, adjustable roll bar. Cast magnesium uprights, Melmag wheels. Lockheed calipers grabbing Repco discs. Front subframe referred to in the text clear, note the front lower forward wishbone mount to the frame. Quality of fabrication and build of all these cars superb. (Dale Harvey)

New radiators to improve engine cooling along with new, longer radiator ducts were fitted.

The car was fitted with Repcos’ latest flat plane crank engine. (giving circa 520bhp and the big, solid midrange torque which always differentiated the Repco Holden engines characteristics from the Chevs)

o park rear

Oran Park, practice before the Tasman round. Lots of people in attendance for the cars first public run. Derek Kneller by the RF Goodyear. Fuel vaporisation on this test covered in text. Rear suspension; single upper link, twin parallel lower links, twin radius rods and coil spring/Koni dampers, adjustable sway bar. You can just see the top of the inboard mounted disc. Hewland DG300 ‘box. Matich A53 Repco ‘007’. (Dale Harvey)

The fuel system was redesigned, the mechanical fuel pump was moved from its original position behind the distributor drive to a position similar to a Cosworth DFV, low down on the front of the engine driven by a narrow toothed belt from the front of the crankshaft.

The A53 weighed 1361lbs (618 kilos) with oil, water and 1 gallon of fuel.

It was a superb looking racing car, as good as any F1/F5000 in the world at that time, a testament to Frank Matich’s engineering prowess and all built in Australia.’

herald

The 1974 Tasman Series and Frank Matich’ Retirement…

DK; ‘Frank had been thinking about retirement during the last couple of months of 1973 whilst his wife, Joan was ill, he had placed ads in Racing Car News to sell all of the cars. The A53 was extensively tested by Frank in the run up to the 1974 Tasman series, but was not raced in New Zealand due to Joan’s illness. FM sent me to Pukekohe to check out the opposition’.

The Kiwi Tasman rounds were won by John Walker, he took the season opener at Levin in his Lola T330 Repco, Gethin then won at Pukekohe in the VDS Chevron. McCormack’s Elfin MR5 Repco won the NZ GP at on the Wigram airfield circuit and Max Stewart won at Teretonga in his Lola T330 Chev. The series was wide open when the cars arrived in Sydney for the fifth round at Western Sydney’s Oran Park circuit. Warwick Farm, very sadly ran its last Tasman meeting the year before and had ceased to be used for motor racing.

The A53’s race debut was the first Australian Tasman round at Oran Park on 3 February.

Kneller…’Early in the week before the race Frank had an accident with a small Honda generator on his boat, burning his left hand and his chest. He was electrocuted and was lucky not to have been killed, only the generator stalling prevented that. He practiced the car at Oran Park on the Friday but decided not to race as he was having trouble effectively driving the car and concentrating, although his times would have put him towards the front of the grid’.

oran park on circuit

Matich tests his brand new car in considerable pain at Oran Park. Matich A53 Repco ‘007’. He was quick despite the pain he was in from a boating accident. (Dale Harvey)

‘Bob Muir was offered the drive, his times in free practice were very competitive. During official practice the engine suffered from fuel vaporisation. During pit stops the mechanical fuel pump was absorbing heat from the circuit tarmac causing a vapour lock in the fuel system. There was also an oil pump problem, Bob qualified at the back of the grid 5.5 seconds slower than his best time on Friday’.

oran park front

Another Oran Park test shot this time the front of the luvverly new Matich. Matich in towelling hat with Kneller behind RR wheel. (Dale Harvey)

‘The engine was changed overnight and a heat shield added around the fuel pump. Bob’s times in the Sunday morning warm up were on the pace of the front runners (low 40seconds). He started the race well and was up to eighth by lap 6 but retired around lap 70 with fuel pressure problems again’.

The following week Frank had recovered enough to race at Surfers Paradise although he was still suffering from the burns to his hands. In a strong, gritty performance, he qualified and finished third behind the two Chevron B24/28’s of Pilette and Gethin.

matich sandown

Matich cruising thru the Sandown paddock in his tractable Repco engined device, February 1974. He is wearing the latest ‘small window’ Bell ‘Star’ helmet, he was Australian distributor for Bell as well as Goodyear race tyres. Matich A53 ‘007’. (oldracephotos.com/Hammond)

‘For the third round at Sandown a new flat plane crank Repco engine was installed. Frank qualified second to Gethin and led the race for 15 laps. He was leading by over 6 seconds when the water pump pulley worked loose and the engine overheated. Frank pitted and retired to save the engine’.

‘The last ’74 Tasman race was at Adelaide International Raceway. A fresh flat plane engine was installed and in practice Frank was behind Max Stewart (FM 49.8 to MS 49.7). Frank ran second for the first 10 laps before spinning on some oil and falling back to seventh, he drove back up to second by lap 51 but a misfire set in when he was only 2.5 seconds off the lead, he then spun again while lapping a slower car, eventually finishing fourth’.

matich adelaide

Start of the Adelaide International Tasman round. Matich on the outside of John Walkers T330, Stewart’s T33o behind FM, a VDS Chevron on the far outside and Brown’s T332 behind that car. (lyntonh)

‘That was Frank Matich’s last race in his own make of car. About 2 weeks after the end of the Tasman he called me to his house and told me that he was going to retire from racing and was going to close down Matich Racing. He said since the boat accident he had been suffering from bad headaches and lack of concentration and thats why he spun both in practice and the race in Adelaide. Along with other matters he thought it was time to retire from racing’.

‘The A53 with the latest Repco engines were as competitive as any other F5000 car at the time and we had not scratched the surface with its development. We had the car and enough spares to race the A53 in any series in the world, these spares were made in December ’73/January ’74 so i don’t think FM had made up his mind to retire until after the ’74 Tasman ended. Repco was not the main cause, their announcement to withdraw was not made until April, long after the discussion FM and i had’.

repco withdrawai

Melbourne newspaper announcement of Repco’s April 1974 withdrawal from racing. (Derek Kneller Collection)

‘All the cars were put up for sale in the May 1974 edition of the ‘Racing Car News’, the A50 ‘001/2’ Gold Star/Australian GP winning car was advertised as a rolling chassis for $A3950. The A51 ‘005’ rolling chassis $5950 and the A53 ‘007’ rolling chassis $9750.

cranky

Matich the racer; he has the ‘faraway eyes’ on, pondering setup changes to get more speed from A50 ‘001/2’, McRae is setting the pace and their is a need to find more speed. Wigram, NZ 1973. (Shane Lee)

Conclusion…

When Frank Matich retired he was 39 years old and still at the peak of his powers as both a racer and constructor of racing cars. He was without doubt and objectively showed he was as quick as the world best in the sixties when he raced against them in equivalent cars.

His sportscars were the fastest in Australia and his F5000’s as fast if not in some years faster than the worlds best.

In that context he retired too early, Derek Kneller says the A54 was being concepted when FM retired.

Personally i like my heroes to retire at their peak rather than the back ‘of the curve’. If FM had not peaked he was perhaps close to it.

The family business was motor racing, FM’s wife Joan was very much involved from start to finish. Always very much a family man as well as ‘obsessively focussed’ as ‘successful racers’ are in any field of life, it was time to give his family of six the time now they needed and deserved, whilst continuing the businesses involved in motor racing if not the actual building and racing of the cars themselves.

FM was never far from the scene and Matich cars remained successful particularly in John Goss’ hands, he won the 1976 AGP at Sandown in A51/3 ‘005’ against much younger cars.

No longer with us, Frank Matich died on 11 May 2015. FM was a man of immense achievement, not without his faults mind you, and a great Australian.

I hope i have conveyed some of that.

frank and joan

Somehow this seems an appropriate photo to end this article. Very much a devoted couple, Joan and Frank Matich, car the McLaren M10B, here promoting their sponsors and the family business in Australian ‘Womans Day’ magazine in 1970. (Derek Kneller Collection: Australian ‘Womans Day’ 1970)

Etcetera…

‘Pitlane’ Interviews with Derek Kneller.

More Photos.

winners are grinners

‘Winners are Grinners’, FM in 1972. (unattributed)

matich team shot

Matich A50 ‘003’, March 1972 before export to the US and the team which built it L>R; Jim Hunter mech, Scott McNaughton mech, Charlie Munro machinist, Henry Nehrbechi designer, Arcadia mech/fabricator, Bob Riley manager/mech, Derek Kneller chief mech, John Bug machinist. Missing is Bob Kube machinist. (Derek Kneller)

matich et al

‘Council of War’ during the 1971 Tasman. L>R; Don O’Sullivan, John Cannon, FM and an unidentified fella. Car is Mclaren M10B Repco. (unattributed)

photo (4)

FM in his Brookvale workshop with A50 ‘001/2’. Nice detail of cars cockpit, dash full of Smith’s instruments and distinctive ‘half’ steering wheel. (Derek Kneller Collection)

repco poster

Bibliography…

Australian Motor Racing Annual 1973, Manuscript from Derek Kneller, The Nostalgia Forum, John Smailes article in ‘Australian Motor Racing Annual 1972’, Graham Howard ‘History of The Australian Grand Prix’, oldracingcars.com

Photo Credits…

Graham Howard ‘History of The Australian Grand Prix’, Rennie Ellis, Stupix, Robert Davies, Jay Bondini, lyntonh, Derek Kneller Collection, Dale Harvey, Dick Simpson, oldracephotos.com, Facebook F5000 Group photo archives, Derek Kneller Collection, Shane Lee, Terry Marshall, John Ellacott, Wirra

Tailpiece…

goodyeras

FM atop both his tool of trade and ‘trading stock’. Both distributor and tester of Firestone and later Goodyear race tyres in Australia. Circa 1968. (wirra)

Other F5000 Articles…

Shadow DN6B Dodge.

https://primotipo.com/2015/10/07/shadow-dn6b-dodge-road-america-f5000-1976/

Elfin MR8 Chev and James Hunt.

https://primotipo.com/2014/10/15/james-hunt-rose-city-10000-winton-raceway-australia1978-elfin-mr8-chev/

Finito…

walker sandown

Robert Davies took this amazing shot of John Walkers’ F5000 Lola T332 scything at very high speed the Sandown Park horserailing on lap 1 of the Tasman Round, 23 February 1975…

Walker survived the accident and lived to fight another day, eventually winning both the Australian Grand Prix and ‘Gold Star’ the national championship for drivers in 1979 in another Lola T332.

The other cars in shot are also Lola’s ; Max Stewarts’ T330 left, Graeme Lawrences’ T332 centre and Kevin Bartletts’ similar car on the right. In fact it was in Bartletts’ T332 ‘HU22′, later owned and raced successfully by Bruce Allison before passing into Martin Sampsons’ hands in which Walker won the AGP and Gold Star in 1979.

The battle for the ’75 Tasman was decided in this race.

Going into the Sandown final round Walker, Warwick Brown and Kiwi 1970 Tasman Champion, Graeme Lawrence all Lola T332 mounted could all win the series depending upon how ‘the cards fell’, with 30 points apiece from 7 prior rounds.

Sandown in February was typically hot throughout practice, Walker took pole from Brown, Max Stewart third and Lawrence 4th, their was nothing between the title protagonists, it was anybody’s race.

lcca shot

John Walker, Warwick Brown and Graeme Lawrence pictured at the Light Car Club, then the Sandown promoters, a day or so before the race. The Melbourne ‘Sun’ was a good paper in which to wrap yer fish n’ chips but had no merit otherwise, much as the Herald-Sun does now. The article rabbits on about Alan Moffats new ‘Cologne’ RS3400 Capri, indicative of the Aussie fixation with ‘taxis’ (touring cars), making no mention of the Tasman finale…nice shot tho!

wb sandown 75 pits taright

Warwick Brown, razor sharp after a series of races in the US in 1974 in ‘HU27’. He had been racing the car a full year, he and engineer Peter Molloy understood all of the cars nuances, this chassis the very first of the T332’s, made its debut in the ’74 Tasman. This shot is on the old Pit Straight, the car ‘nose up’ under acceleration in 3rd gear. (Robert Davies)

Brown was perhaps the ‘form driver’…he broke into F5000 in the ex-Alan Hamilton McLaren M10B which was engineered by the very experienced Peter Molloy, Molloy having prepared the sister M10B to this when owned by Niel Allen.

Molloy knew the car intimately and was equally adept as a driver mentor/coach. Brown was immediately on the pace in what was an old car in 1972. He then jumped into the ex Allen/Muir Lola T300, a quicker but twitcher, more challenging conveyance than the M10B and was very competitive in the ’73 Tasman but became a ‘Lola Limper’ in an horrific high speed accident at Surfers which could have taken his life. It was not the last Lola ‘big one’ in Warwicks’ career either.

When he recovered his Patron, Pat Burke, bought the very first T332 which he ran in the 1974 Tasman Series doing well enough to win the final Adelaide round, he competed in the first round of the domestic 1974 Gold Star series, which Lawrence and Walker also contested. Browns’ team then shipped ‘HU27’ to the US successfully competing in several rounds of the ’74 Series before returning for the AGP at Oran Park in mid-November. Warwick ran the final US round in the Talon nee McRae GM2, he would contest the ’75 US Series in. Brown was well and truly ‘match fit’ by the start of the series , his confidence buoyed by his competitiveness in the ‘States.

Max Stewart won the ’74 AGP from Kevin Bartlett, KB also a ‘Lola Limper’ by virtue of his awful leg-breaking Pukekohe Tasman ’74 shunt. Graeme Lawrence was 3rd in his T332 ‘HU28’ which he also raced in the ’74 Tasman and the whole Australian Gold Star series, he was well familiar with the car by the commencement of the ’75 Tasman.

lawrence sandown 75

Graeme Lawrence in his T332 Chev ‘HU28’. GL raced this car successfully over several seasons. (Robert Davies)

Graeme Lawrence won the Tasman Series in 1970 in the Ferrari Dino 246T ‘0008’, also Chris Amons’ 1969 Tasman winner…1970 was the first year F5000’s were eligible to compete for the title. He started in F5000 in a Lola T300, that car short lived after Lawrence was involved in an horrific high speed, ‘nobody’s fault’ accident with countryman Bryan Faloon in the ’72 NZ GP at Pukekohe, Faloon losing his life and Graeme breaking both legs and sustaining other serious injuries. Like the other ‘Lola Limpers’ described herein he continued his passion for the sport. After he recovered long time sponsor Air New Zealand supported a Surtees TS15 Ford F2 car he ran in the ’73 Tasman and in South East Asia, before returning to F5000 with the T332 for 1974.

Bartlett and his great friend Max Stewart were not as competitive ’75 Tasman contenders as they hoped. The great friends were the first customers of Lola’s F5000 latest; the trick, schmick but not ultimately quick, rising rate suspension T400.

Bartlett’s 3rd at Levin in the opening round flattered only to deceive, the cars were reasonably reliable throughout the series but not as quick as the T332’s. So unimpressed with the T400 were they, that both contested the Adelaide and Sandown rounds in their old cars. Bartlett his T332, his T330 rebuilt around a new 332 tub after his Pukekohe prang and Max the very first, very fast, very successful T330, ‘HU1’, the prototype tested and raced in the UK in late 1972 and honed to a fine pitch before handover by Frank Gardner to Stewart prior to the ’73 Tasman commencement. It would have been very interesting to see how this pair would have faired had they run their well proven older cars…but there was no reason to believe the T400 would not be a quicker car than the successful previous Lola F5000’s had been. Each one quicker than the previous model.

The T400’s ended up being successful in the hands of Count Rudy Van der Straatens ‘Team VDS’ in Teddy Pilettes’ and Peter Gethins’ hands in Europe and by Max Stewart in Australia but were otherwise shunned by most Lola customers who continued to modify and develop their T330/2’s, the T332C THE definitive F5000 car.

jw sandown practice

John Walker in his Lola T332 Repco in Shell Corner or turn 1 onto the old Pit Straight in practice, Saturday 22 February. Lola T330 ‘HU23’ B, rebuilt as a T332 after the first of its numerous shunts, unique in fitment of Repco Holden F5000 engines. These were ‘carry-overs’ from JW’s previous Elfin MR5 and Matich A50 both cars designed for the Repcos’. Repco withdrew from racing in 1974 but continued to provide parts support to their many customers. JW car fitted for Sandown ’75 with the last ‘flat plane crank’ Repco engine developing circa 520bhp in addition to the Repcos’ legendary ‘truckload’ of mid range torque. (Robert Davies)

In many ways the least well prepared of the ‘Tasman Finalists’, at the Series commencement was John Walker.

The Adelaide crash repair business proprietor came into F5000 from F2, swapping his Elfin 600 for an MR5 Repco, the first of Garrie Coopers’ Elfin 5 litre single seaters.

John hadn’t raced the car for long before deciding to compete in the ’73 US F5000 ‘L&M Series’, and bought a Matich A50 to do so, the Elfin lacking the ‘bag tanks’ required for that series and the ultimate competitiveness Walker sought.

matich watkins gelen walker

Walker and team on the Watkins Glen grid. Matich A50 Repco ‘004’. JW finished 8th in the race won by Jody Scheckters’ Lola T330, T330’s filling the first 6 places, such was their dominance that year. Mind you Scheckter won the L&M US title that year mainly driving a Trojan T101. Mechanic clearly has had a shopping trip to San Francisco…(Chris Parker)

He did well in the US, finishing 8th at Michigan and Watkins Glen in the limited campaign returning to Oz for the ’73 Gold Star series a notably faster driver…and with a Lola T330 he bought from Carl Haas to which he fitted the Repco Holden F5000 engines which had nestled in the back of both the Elfin and Matich. Both cars were designed for the Repco engine, the Lola was not, and whilst JW was not at the top of the ‘Repco food-chain’ initially, sponsored driver Frank Matich was, the Lola was always a ‘jet’ with the lighter, torquier, albeit slightly less powerful than the best Chevs, Repco donks.

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John Walker looking longingly at fellow Aussie Bob Muirs’ Lola T330 ‘HU4′ in the Mid Ohio paddock on 3 June 1973. He was mightily impressed by the T330s’ he had been chasing around the US circuits…by 24 July Lola had invoiced him for ‘HU23’ in ‘Viking Orange’, the car delivered in the US, the Repco fitted there, but first raced in Australia at the Adelaide Gold Star round in October 1973. (Terry Capps)

JW contested the ’74 Tasman in the T330 winning at Levin and in the first rounds of the ’74 Gold Star series but pranged the car in the second heat at Surfers Paradise doing sufficient damage to require a new chassis…this car had ‘more hits than Elvis’ over the years, as the oldracingcars.com history shows!

T330 ‘HU23’ was then rebuilt around a T332 tub, and whilst Walker didn’t do any of the remaining ’74 Gold Star rounds he had done enough test miles around Adelaide International in his new car to be competitive from the start of the ’75 Tasman.

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Circuit map of Sandown in its original guise. JW accident occurred at the fast, downhill lefthand kink after ‘Mobil’, the approach top speed in 5th gear, before braking…

By the time the ‘Tasman Circus’ arrived at Sandown in February the 7 rounds had been won by Lawrence (Levin and Adelaide), Brown (Pukekohe and Oran Park), Walker (Surfers Paradise) with Chris Amon winning at Teretonga in his Talon MR1 Chev and Graham McRae Wigram in the Talons cousin, McRae GM2 Chev. (the Talons were cars built in the US by Jack McCormack to the GM2 design sold by McRae to McCormack)

And so the scene was set. There was much excitement in Melbourne with the mainstream media, usually only interested in Aussie Rules, Cricket and Donkeys (horse racing), providing substantial coverage to the cars and drivers for a wonderful showdown of ‘local drivers’ Graeme Lawrence a Kiwi but much admired and respected by local fans as a driver ‘from over the ditch’.

The day dawned bright and sunny, it was with a great deal of anticipation and interest that we fans ventured out to the circuit. I jumped the pit fence gaining my ‘students discount’ to the paddock and took in pre-race preparations and watched the start from the pit counter, JW went past in 2nd behind Brown, John Goss taking 2nd from Walker on the run uphill…

Photographer, Robert Davies described the bellowing field of cars heading up the back straight …’I was pre-focussed on the track at my favorite vantage point at ‘Marlboro Country’ (the top of the back straight on the outside of the corner) ready for my usual shot of the leading cars on the opening lap. JW lost control of the Lola and slid at very high speed along about 100 metres of the fencing that separates the horse racing track from the motor racing circuit. He was very lucky, the fence posts snapped like matchsticks and the water pipe that ran along the top of the fence (to water the horse racing grass, you can actually see the water pipe atop the rail) passed over the top of his helmet’.

Walker was unconscious and was removed from the car and taken to nearby Dandenong Hospital, discharging himself shortly after arrival.He escaped serious injury from what was a very nasty accident with the best of outcomes, some years later Garrie Cooper went off after a wing-post failure at a similar spot in his Elfin MR8, he broke limbs but again was lucky to survive, Sandown is not without its perils.

The reason for the accident has never been clear, mechanical failure ruled unlikely by post race inspection of the wreck.

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WB on the downhill plunge from ‘Marlboro Country’ to Dandenong Road in his T332 Chev, past the orange colored remains of Walkers’ car on the way to 6th place in the race and the Tasman Series win. The only occasion on which an Australian won the Tasman title. (Robert Davies)

A good deal of interest in the race was removed with JW’s demise but it was tempered with the knowledge that he was ok, and the subject of mass media coverage in the days which followed as a consequence.

Graeme Lawrence had fuel metering unit dramas and Warwick Brown slowed and had a quick ‘splash and dash’ with low fuel and finished 6th, gaining the vital point to win the title, it was a fitting victory for a driver who jumped back into these awesome cars after an accident as horrific as the one shown above but with far more dire consequences 2 years before…

John Goss won the race, his first F5000 victory in the Matich A53 Repco, the last of Franks’ superb cars…It was to be the last Tasman Series, the Kiwis and Aussies ran F5000 Series in 1976 of 4 races each back to back but the New Zealanders then changed their National Formula to Formula Atlantic/Pacific from 1977 Australia soldiering on with F5000.

goss sandown matich 1975

John Goss on the way to Sandown victory in his Matich A53 Repco (007). Sandown was a happy F5000 hunting ground for JG, in addition to this, his first F5000 win, he also won the 1976 AGP in a very close race with Vern Schuppans’ Elfin MR8 Chev, Goss victorious in his other Matich, A51/3 ‘005’. Goss started racing in his native Tasmania in a self-built sportscar, and but for some FF races in the first Birrana F71, made his name as a touring car driver in Ford Falcon GT’s…but he became an awesomely quick F5000 driver, immediately on the pace in Matichs’ fantastic cars from mid-’74. Here he is descending the hill below ‘Marlboro Country’, the horse railing mown down by Walker, and the destroyed Lolas’ orange airbox clear to see. (Robert Davies)

So that was that, a wonderful series of 8 races in the Australasian Summer which started in 1965 and had seen the best in the world compete in the Southern Hemisphere annually was at an end.

Both countries continued with summer International Series but the magic of the Tasman was forever lost…the Australian Grand Prix is superb but it isn’t 8 wonderful races in 2 months!

jw with lola lcca

John Walker pictured in Roy Street Melbourne behind the old Light Car Club of Australia premises during a pre-Sandown promotional shoot in 1978. Car is the Martin Sampson/Magnum Wheels owned Lola T332 Chev ‘HU22’ in which Walker won both the 1979 Wanneroo Park, WA, AGP and Gold Star Series. (Ian Smith)

Etcetera…

walker paper 2

john walker paper article

Lola T330 Chev…

Those with an interest in what makes these cars tick may find this series of articles on Peter Brennans’ restoration of the ex-Lella lombadi T330 ‘HU18’ of interest.

https://primotipo.com/2014/06/24/lellas-lola-restoration-of-the-ex-lella-lombardi-lola-t330-chev-hu18-episode-1/

Photo and Other Credits…

Robert Davies; check out Roberts’ other amazing shots on Flickr

https://www.flickr.com/photos/robsretroracing/

Ian Smith, Terry Capps, Chris Parker

Thanks to Rob Newman for reading the draft and correcting some facts

jack

Dick Simpson

(more…)

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Jackie Stewart sets up his Brabham BT11A for ‘Castrol Corner’ the right hander leading onto Surfers main straight…Holdens in the background and his Climax engine puffing oil before his retirement due to oil loss…(John Stanley)

Jackie Stewart in the ‘Scuderia Veloce’ Brabham BT11A Climax ‘Tasman Formula’ car during the Surfers Paradise ‘Gold Star’ Australian Drivers Championship Round on 14 August 1966…

Jackie squeezed in a visit to Australia to drive in both this event and the ‘Surfers 12 Hour’ a week later in between the German and Italian Grands Prix on 7th August and 4 September respectively.

The visit was a welcome respite from the World Championship that year, Jack Brabham dominating in his Repco engined Brabham BT19, with BRM for whom Stewart drove, struggling with their new uncompetitive, complex and heavy P83 ‘H16’.

Jackie won the Monaco Grand Prix in a ‘Tasman Spec’ BRM P261, his 1.5 litre F1 car squeezed to about 2.1 litres, well short of the 3 Litre capacity limit which applied in Grand Prix racing from that year, the nimble car producing the goods on this tight circuit.

monaco

Stewart wins the 1966 Monaco Grand Prix in the BRM P261 1.5 litre F1 car bored to circa 2.1 litres. This was the first Championship race of the new 3 litre F1, the first 4 cars all ‘big bore’ 1.5’s…no 3 litres finishing the race (Unattributed)

In the Belgian Grand Prix three weeks later he experienced an horrific accident on the first lap of the race at Spa, conditions having changed from wet to torrential conditions on this long track, leaving the circuit at high speed on the Masta Kink. He was trapped upside down in the car, the monocoque twisted around him covered with fuel with a broken shoulder, cracker rib and internal bruising, whilst Graham Hill and Bob Bondurant who had also crashed freed him with tools borrowed from spectators …And from that moment starting Stewart on the crusade for driver, car and circuit safety which are amongst his many racing legacies.

No doubt Jackie was looking forward to some racing and the recuperative powers of the Gold Coast sun and surf.

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The rooted monocoque of Stewarts’ BRM P261 after the Masta Kink shunt. The shot clearly shows how the chassis twisted around his body trapping him…he was extremely lucky not to have been killed outright or ‘barbecued’ in a fire, he was liberally doused with petrol, the cars fuel tanks within the monocoque ruptured…no ‘bag tanks’ in those days. 8 drivers crashed without completing a lap…4 at Burnenville, and 4 on the Masta Kink (Unattributed)

Keith Williams…

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Keith Williams at ‘Surfers Paradise Gardens’ Carrara in the mid-1960’s

Jackie enjoyed his successful championship winning 1966 Tasman Season in our summer, campaigning a BRM P261, his 1.5 litre F1 car V8 engine bored to around 2.1 litres, as outlined above, so he was happy to return to Australia to race Jack Brabham and the locals in the ‘Gold Star’ round and Sports Car enduro which comprised Keith Williams ‘Speed Week’.

Williams was a remarkable entrepreneur, he left school at 13 to help supplement the family income pumping fuel at a local ‘Servo’, formed his first business making leather products three years later and soon employed fifty people manufacturing Disney licensed products.

He was an Australian Water Skiing Champion in the late 1950’s, via that sport both making industry products and forming ‘Surfers Paradise Water Ski Shows’ together with Jack Joel.

He built Surfers Paradise and Adelaide Raceways in 1966 and 1970 respectively. Williams was a leader in the tourism industry building ‘Sea World’ on the Gold Coast in 1971 and started the development of Hamilton Island as a global tourist destination in 1978. His remarkable life ended in 2011 after a series of strokes aged 82.

The Surfers circuit was finished in early 1966, the first meeting held on 22 May. The Grand Opening though was ‘Speed Week’ in August, the great promoter holding a number of events over ten days including two weekends of circuit racing described in this article, drag racing, Concours D’ Elegance, motor cycle racing and a speedboat racing event on the nearby Gold Coast Broadwater.

Surfers immediately became a drivers and crowd favourite, its fast flowing nature a challenge for drivers and their machines, the circuit facilities and viewing mounds providing a world class amenity at the time to we ‘punters’.

My only visit was as a spectator on a family holiday, i convinced my dad to deposit me at the circuit for the day of the ‘Glynn Scott Memorial Trophy’ meeting in September 1973, the feature event a round of the ‘Gold Star’, the Australian Drivers Championship, contested by F5000 cars.

The sight and sound of these fabulous cars bellowing through the fast right hander under the Dunlop Bridge, a true test of ‘gonad dimensions’, ‘flat knacker’ at 7500RPM in fifth, unmuffled Chev and Repco V8’s roaring away into the distance, was truly a sight and sound to behold and feel!

Frank Matich was running away with the race in his brand new Matich A52, until the ‘flat plane crank’ experimental Repco V8 ‘shook the shitter’ out of the Varley battery, no spark, no go. John McCormack won the race in his Elfin MR5 and the Gold Star that year, the inherently dangerous nature of the track clear to anyone seeing Warwick Brown hobbling around on crutches that day. Brown joining the ‘Lola Limpers Club’ having comprehensively destroyed his T3oo and his legs in the Surfers Tasman meeting earlier in the year.

But wow! What a circuit it was!

Williams sold it in 1984, the circuit closed in 1987 and is now part of the ‘Emerald Lakes’ canal estate, like so many of our circuits given over to advancing urban encroachment, but that was a long way away in 1966.

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Gold Star Meeting…

Jackie had some idea about the local talent from his very successful Tasman Tour early in the year, he won the series in his P261 BRM, taking four wins, but probably got more than he bargained for.

Kevin Bartlett had stepped up since the Tasman Series from the Mildren Teams 1.5, to 2.5 litre Brabham, Spencer Martin also racing a Brabham BT11A for Bob Jane.

Brabham was there, in BT19 the chassis which carried him to victory in that years World Championship, fresh from his German GP win a week before, the car still fitted with its 3 litre ‘620 Series’ Repco V8.

Leo Geoghegan and Greg Cusack were entered in ex-Clark Lotus 39 and Lotus 32B respectively. Both these cars also Coventry Climax FPF 2.5 litre four cylinder engines.

Jack Brabham Brabham BT19 Repco, Surfers Paradise 1966

In the middle of his successful 1966 F1 campaign, Jack brought BT19 to Oz for the opening of Surfers Paradise…Repco wanted the car there but all the same i expect Wlliams paid handsomely for Brabhams’ presence! Here surrounded by admirers in the Surfers paddock (Unattributed)

brabham surfers 1966

Jack here fettling his Brabham’s Repco ‘620’, rotor button the cause of his DNF. (Unattributed)

Ray Bell, ‘Racing Car News’ magazine reporter at the time recalled the meeting on ‘The Nostalgia Forum’…

‘Jack had pole, from KB, JYS and Spencer Martin. KB lead the way, this to be the drive that made everybody sit up and take notice, he’d not been long in 2.5’s and was leading a Grand Prix Winner and pretender to the World Championsip throne. Brabham managed a lap and a half before the rotor button went and he dropped out…Stewart hounded KB for five laps before outbraking him at Lukey…Bartlett finishing two-tenths behind the Scot ‘ (in an identical car)

‘With KB on pole for the main event , Stewart had something fail in the clutch mechanism and dragged away badly…Martin got the jump, leading KB for seven laps before Bartlett went past into Lukey, Stewart looming in a comeback drive all the while.

On lap fourteen they set a new lap record of 1:13:0, a few laps later JYS passing KB under the bridge…KB coming back at the clutchless Brabham…there was more passing and re-passing until the magneto in Bartletts car failed. Stewart blew his engine giving Martin the win having shaken off Leo Geoghegan to do so’.

If there was any doubt, Kevin Bartlett ‘arrived’ as a Top-Liner that day…serving it up to a Grand Prix winner in absolutely equal cars.

Kevin Bartlett recalled recently…’The dices that weekend live in my mind forever. I knew him well before that meeting, his SV Brabham was the equal of mine. We both knew the cars capabilities, the dice was not out of the ordinary as far as we were concerned, the cars were very close but we gave one another room but if you got the line you would slipstream past. We respected each others abilities, we both DNFd the feature race but laughed about it later. He had no ego.’

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Kevin Bartlett shown in the Mildren Brabham BT11A in the ‘Lakeside 99’ Tasman round, February 1967. He placed fifth in a race won by Clarks Lotus 33 Climax. (autopics)

Surfers Paradise 12 Hour…

Stewart returned from the beach for the second weekend of Williams ‘double header’ to drive the Scuderia Veloce Ferrari 250LM with Kiwi Andy Buchanan, I wrote about this car a while back….https://primotipo.com/2014/07/03/pete-geoghegan-ferrari-250lm-6321-bathurst-easter-68/

The entry also included a Ford GT40 for Frank Matich and Peter Sutcliffe, another LM for Jackie Epstein and Aussie International Paul Hawkins, David Piper and  future LeMans winner Richard Attwood raced Pipers’ ex-works Ferrari P2.

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Peter Sutcliffes’ Ford GT40 ahead of the Jackie Epstein/ Paul Hawkins Ferrari 250LM (autopics.com)

Given our paucity of top-line sports cars in Australia of this type, the grid was bolstered by sprint sports cars such as Lotus 23’s, production sports cars and touring cars…including a Mini Moke entered by later Touring Car Ace ‘Bo’ Seton and Charlie Smith, the closing speed of Stewarts LM and the like would have been well over 80MPH!, the Moke having little power and the aerodynamic efficiency of a ‘dunny-door’.

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Jackie Stewarts Ferrari 250 LM blasts past the Charlie Smith/ Bo Seton Mini Moke, the Fazz did 493 laps to win, the Moke 311…lapped just a few times. Speed differentials an issue not just at Le Mans! (autopics.com)

The chequered flag was shown to the Matich GT40, but Scuderia Veloce boss David McKay successfully protested the result giving the win to the Stewart/Buchanan LM. It was not the first time a major event in Australia was clouded by lap-scoring disputes these things not uncommon in those far off, pre-digital days!

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The winning Scuderia Veloce Ferrari 250LM ‘6321’driven by Jackie Stewart and Andy Buchanan, the car winning the race in 1966/67/68 (autopics.com)

Kevin Bartlett and Doug Chivas finished third in the Alec Mildren racing Alfa Roneo Tz2, Kevin Bartlett again recalls…

‘The 12 Hour was tough going for a little 1600, but Doug was on top of his game, a helluva driver who was kind to the car and did the times. It was a tactical race for us, Alec had worked out a plan and the times we needed to do, which we did consistently. I drove a TZ1 years later at an AGP support event but the TZ2 was areodynamically better, it was quicker in a straight line and had a better track and wheelbase which got it out of corners better. The TZ1 handling was not as good, the tyre and wheel package wasn’t as good.’

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Andy Buchanan, Jackie Stewart, dignitary, Frank Matich, Peter Sutcliffe, Kevin Bartlett, Doug Chivas. Matich and Sutcliffe happy at this stage but tears were not far away! KB and Chivas piloted the third place Mildren Team Alfa TZ2 (Kevin Bartlett)

Etcetera…

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Bartlett/Chivas Alfa TZ2, ahead of the John Harvey/ Frank Demuth Lotus 23 and the Cooper T49 Monaco Olds of Tony Osborne/Murray Carter/Ray Gibbs (autopics)

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David Piper/Richard Attwood Ferrari P2 (autopics.com.au)

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Peter Sutcliffes’ Ford GT40 was a customer car owned by Sutcliffe, co-driven by Frank Matich, at the time the outstanding sports car driver in Australia, make that one of the the most outstanding drivers in Australia, his competitiveness in open-wheelers proven in the Tasman Series until he (sadly!) went down the sports car path, finally again seeing the light in the days of F5000…(autopics)

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Early pitstop for the Piper/Attwood Ferrari P2, only 45 laps completed (autopics)

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Photo and Other Credits…

autopics.com.au, John Stanley Collection

Many thanks to Kevin Bartlett for sharing his recollections of both events

Finito…

Wesley

Alfa Club of Victoria Concorso…300 Alfa Romeos’ dropping olio onto the Wesley First XI Turf…

The Alfa Romeo Owners Club of Victorias’ annual Concourse and preceding dinner… has become ‘Bigger Than Ben Hur’ in terms of quality of organisation, cars, location, attendance and guest speakers.

This years concourse was held at Wesley College, St Kilda Road, Melbourne on 30 November, the guest speakers at the nearby Parkview Hotel dinner the evening before were former Australian Racing Champions Kevin Bartlett and Alfredo Costanzo.

The ‘dialogue’ with the drivers was ably conducted by Melbourne longtime Alfista and racer John Emery, it wasn’t ‘hard core’ given the audience, too many road car types present for that sadly!, but the following are a few snippets from their comments or quick chats with each of them separately.

Parkview Hotel St Kilda Road

Crappy iPhone shot of Kevin Bartlett left, and Alf Costanzo, right being ‘interviewed’ by John Emery, Parkview Hotel 29 November

I covered KB’s early history in the Alfa GTA article of last week, see https://primotipo.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=1037&action=edit …he spoke fondly of his mentor Alec Mildren and the way Alec extracted the best from him which was around advice and encouragement, not actually how to drive, Mildren himself was the Australian Gold Star winner in 1960.

‘I was really lucky he gave me the chance to test, Glenn Abbey gave me the call, I don’t even remember the circuit but there were three or four other guys who also had similar credentials. But I guess they saw potential and a willingness to work hard and learn’.

Bartlett spoke of the evolution of the Lola F5000 cars from the T240 F2 based, twitchy, torsionally floppy T300 through to the T400 and ultimate variant of the T332, the 332C and what a competitive car it was. Costanzo chipped in about that cars understeer and said he, having also owned a T332, preferred the ‘twitchy and slightly more nervous’ T430, the ex-VDS/Brown car Alfie raced for Alan Hamilton so successfully in 1979/80.

Both noted that Warwick Brown happily went back to a T332 after the 430’s were sold despite his success in that model. (Rothmans Series 1977).

Bartlett related a funny anecdote about building a twin-turbo Jaguar XJS for Australian media magnate, the late Kerry Packer.

Kerry wanted to drive the ‘weapon’ from Sydney to Canberra, KB confessed that the gearbox whilst up for sprint meetings wouldn’t survive that journey…so Packer had his ‘chopper shadow the car on the trip, as you do!

Inevitably the car ‘cacked itself’ near Bowral, the chopper scooping up the legendary KP and delivering him to the capital on time. KB organising for his most wealthy clients car to be returned to Sydney…the silver lining in this relationship the very successful ‘Nine Network’ sponsorship of Bartlett’s Camaro in Touring Car Racing after his second F5000 ‘Big One’ when his Brabham BT43’s rear wheel failed at Sandown in 1979 made continued single seater racing not such a good idea.

Bartlett Sandown 1979 Brabham BT43 Chev

Bartlett in the Sandown pitlane 8 September 1979. Saturday practice, the following day KB had a rear wheel failure cause another big accident going thru ‘The Causeway’ breaking his legs, hospitalising him, destroying the car and ending his cherished single seater career…there were, however, touring cars to conquer. Car now has rear/side, rather than front mounted water rads’, Lola airbox, a variant of the nosecone used on KB’s T400 Lola and later rear wing. Jim Hardman in black anorak listening to KB’s issues and together working out the necessary tweaks! (Mark Bisset)

I asked KB whether Alec considered commercial sponsorship of his team to assist with the budget, as an alternative to ‘Alec Mildren Racing’ withdrawal from the sport but ‘it simply wasn’t his style’ so KB and Max Stewart were ‘on their own’ from 1971 both continuing to be successful but clearly the ‘Mildren Family Team’ was special in every way not least it’s competitiveness and influence on the professional teams which followed its lead.

Bartlett and Alfie are 3 years apart in age, KB born in 1940, Alf 1943. Their careers have ‘reverse parallels’ in some ways, KB a paid professional at 25, and on his own at 30, Alf on his own until 1979, when at 36 he became a paid professional…Unsurprisingly the ‘sweet spots’ in their careers were as paid professionals able to focus on just the driving rather than the more difficult commercial and organisational elements necessary in running your own team.

KB had an opportunity to test F1 for Brabham in 1970, ‘yes we should give him a run’ Ron Tauranac said but the fee was $60000 even then, as KB said, ‘I didn’t have $6k let alone $60k back then’ it’s a shame as the BT33 was a rocket in 1970 and still ok in 1971.

Bartlett Oran Park 1978

Bartlett in the one of a kind Brabham BT43 Chev ahead of Alf and John Walker at Oran Park , Rothmans Series 1978, both in Lola T332’s, Walker in KB’s old car. Warwick Brown won in another T332C, or rather a T333 Single-Seat CanAm car converted to F5000 for our Series before returning to the US whence it was converted back. See this shot of the Brabham in its original form here, mind you the nose had already been changed at this point…with the car in its final form above. (Glenn Moulds)

Two blokes who took to F5000 in Australia, having come out of smaller single-seaters like ‘ducks to water’ were Alf and Bruce Allison, immediately competitive…and both in Lola T332’s, Allison in the car KB sold to buy his T400, ‘HU22’. (KB’s T330 ‘HU22′ rebuilt after its Pukekohe early ’74 shunt around a 332 tub)

Not everybody who drove these animals of cars, mastered them…’it always focussed my mind the day before wherever I raced these cars because they could always bite you’, said KB.

One wag at the Parkview Hotel after listening to Alf speak, very amusing he was too, and who watched many of his early racing efforts said that ‘he bounced that Mono (Elfin Mono) off every fence in Victoria, he didn’t even book overnight accommodation at the country circuits as he never expected to race on Sunday!’

By 1975 he had the car in which to strut his stuff finishing second in the AF2 Championship that year in the Birrana 274 Ford Leo Geoghegan drove to the series win in 1974. Geoff Brabham won the title in a similar 274.

‘At the end of the year I sold the car and bought the ex-Bob Evans 1974 European F5000 Championship winning T332 ‘HU36′ for a lot less than I sold the Birrana! Brian McGuire had a good season in it in the UK in 1975 and was to race it again and then the Brits admitted F1 cars to their series so he bought one of those and sold the Lola cheap, all race prepared and ready to go. I even won a couple of KLM tickets late in the season so got a trip to the UK as well’

In a sad ending for Aussie McGuire, he died in the Williams FW04 he bought instead due to a component failure at Brands in 1977.

‘The T332 was a great car, I did well in it but I preferred the T430 which was a bit more nervous, the turn in was better. The McLaren was better again, no quicker than the Lola in a straight line but it put its power down much better, it was quicker through the corners.’

Costanzo, McLaren M26 Chev Sandown 1981

Costanzo at the old Sandown pit counter 1981. Mclaren M26 Chev, Jim Hardman in the white top. A talented engineer, his self designed and built Hardman JH1 Ford victorious in the 1980 AF2 Championship in Richard Davisons’ hands. Car @ rear is the Bryan Thomson owned Mercedes Fowler/Chev sports sedan then driven by John Bowe.

The McLaren Costanzo spoke of was the M26 F1 car converted to ground effect F5000 specification by Tiga Cars and raced by Alan Hamiltons’ Porsche Cars Australia Team in the dying days of F5000 in Australia.

These are a few vignettes in two phenomenal careers, it was a pleasure to meet them both and watch them work an audience in the same way they used to work the spectators on race day!

Racers both and great blokes to boot…

TZ1 and 6C 1750

All the fun of the fair..big crowds, this is early in the day. Alfa TZ1 Replica beside 6C 1750 Zagato. ‘Lola Limper’ Bartlett checking out the cars in brown shirt and cap.

Lawson and Little Alfa

John Lawsons’ Alfa 6C 2300 Spl left, with the ex-Lex Davison ‘Little Alfa’, shortened 6C1750 ‘Normale’ chassis’ , supercharged. Successful and famous Aussie special raced by Davo from circa 1946 to 1952. car originally Davisons’ fathers road car.

St Kilda Road

Giuliettas’, St Kilda Road buildings at rear

Park scene Wesley

Swag of ‘105’s…a very pleasant Concourse location, Wesley College, Melbourne…

Photo Credits…

oldracephotos.com, Glenn Moulds

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Mildren ‘LHD’ GTA, Kevin Bartlett, Lakeside, Queensland 1966 (John Stanley)

Kevin Bartlett explores and exploits the laws of physics in the Alec Mildren Racing Alfa Romeo GTA , Lakeside, Queensland, Australia, circa 1966…

Some years later American F5000 driver, Sam Posey competing in the Tasman Series and observing KB’s Lola  at close quarters described Bartlett as the ‘master of opposite lock’.

It was an aspect of his driving which worked for him and we spectators throughout his career regardless of car he drove ; sedans, sports cars or single seaters.

Alec Mildren Racing and Kevin Bartlett…

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Team Mildren Warwick Farm 1966, not 1967 i think…Big Professional Team 60’s Style! Cars are Mildren LHD GTA, TZ2 and  the Brabham BT2/6 Ford raced by Bartlett at that stage. WF Tasman Meeting 13 February 1966. (Allegerita)

AMR were one of Australia’s first professional teams, the basis of the team formed around a nucleus of talented people who fettled Alec Mildrens cars during his own single seater campaigns, he won the Australian Gold Star Championship and Australian Grand Prix in a Cooper Maserati in 1960.

Shortly thereafter Mildren retired from driving to concentrate on his business interests which primarily involved the retail car trade, he was the first dealer of Alfa Romeos in New South Wales, and his race team which employed great drivers including Frank Gardner, Kevin Bartlett and Max Stewart.

Mildrens’ passion was single-seaters but the team also raced Alfas, notably 2 GTA’s, TZ2 and later ‘105 Series’ Coupes of various capacities in ‘Series Production’ events as those grew in stature in the late 1960’s.

team mildren

Alec Mildren Racing and the laid back nature of the Tasman series circa 1967…Bartlett is sitting on the wheel of his Brabham BT11A Climax 2.5 Tasman car, the Alfa is the prototype TZ2 referred to in the B &W shot above. The smiley chap at right rear is a young Fred Gibson, then racing a Lotus Elan 26R. Circuit is Warwick Farm, New South Wales. (Peter Windsor)

Kevin Bartlett started racing in his mothers Morris Minor and very quickly the young mechanic made a name for himself as a fast driver with strong mechnical knowledge and sympathy.

By 1965 he was driving an Elfin Imp FJ owned by the McGuire family and an Austin Healey Sprite and TVR for others. He recalls that ‘Alec and Glenn Abbey (Mildrens Engineer/Mechanic) were always on the lookout for talent, Ralph Sach and Charles Smith who drove for them at the time were getting older and i performed well against them in cars with much less capacity. They also took into account that i could drive different types of cars and do as well as i could’.

‘ I got to race the Alfas’ and then the little Brabham BT2/6 which was powered by a pushrod Ford engine and in mid 1965 the Mildren Maserati, which was the first really powerful car i drove, racing it at Lowood and then winning the 1965 Victorian Sportscar Championship in it at Sandown’.

The Mildren Maserati was a car bulit by Bob Britton of Rennmax Engineering, essentially a Lotus 19 clone using some of the running gear from Alec Mildrens 1960 Gold Star Championship winning Cooper T51 Maserati, particularly the gearbox and 2.9 litre 250S Maser engine.

KB made his presence felt in that race beating Bib Stillwells’ Cooper Monaco Buick V8 and Spencer Martins’ ‘Scuderia Veloce’ Ferrari 250LM amongst others. He had well and truly ‘arrived’.

Mildren GTA’s…

There were two, first a LHD and later a RHD car, Bartlett drove both in their competitive ‘heyday’ and both ended up racing in WA…

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Bartlett in ‘LHD’ entering the Viaduct at Longford and leading Allan Moffats’ Lotus Cortina, 1966. (Ellis French)

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Bartlett at it again…Leger Corner , Warwick Farm 1966 ‘RHD’ Mildren GTA (autopics)

Autodelta…

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The Autodelta factory, Milan circa 1967, car is a GTA ‘Stradale’ or road spec GTA. (Pinterest)

The original ‘step front’ Alfa Giulia Sprint GT was penned by Giorgetto Giugiaro at Bertone and has to be one of the most beautifully balanced, delicate designs of the 60’s.

Autodelta was the factory Alfa racing subsidiary, formed by famed ex-Ferrari engineer, Carlo Chiti and Ludovico Chizzola in 1963 after the closure of ATS, the Grand Prix team formed by ex-Ferrari staff after a purge by the Commendatore in 1961.

In 1964 Alfa acquired Autodelta and moved it to Milan, near its HQ.

The Giulia sedan was race developed and did well, in Australia winning the Sandown 6 Hour in 1964, but it was too heavy against the Lotus Cortinas so development started on the Giulia Sprint GT in 1964.

The GTA was built to compete in Sedan racing globally, ‘Group 2’ under FIA rules, which boomed in the 60’s. On 18 February 1965 the first Giulia Sprint GTA was unveiled at the Autosalon in Amsterdam.

It was followed by the GTA Junior 1300 in 1968 and later the 1750/2000 GTAm.

GTA 1600 Tipo ‘105.32’ Specifications…

The car featured lightweight bodies, utilising ‘Peraluman 25’ a light alloy comprising aluminium, magnesium, manganese, copper and zinc. The superstructure remained steel, including the sill panels. The roof, bonnet, boot lid, rear inner support panel and spare wheel well, dash, parcel shelf support panels and rear seat support were all made from the material.

Lightening continued with minimal sound deadening, Perspex side and rear windows on Corsa (race) cars, the GTA lost 205kg compared to the Giulia Sprint GT for a total of 820kg.

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Interior of Australian owned GTA ‘Stradale’

Alfa had to build 1000 cars to qualify for the FIA’s Group 2 Touring Car regulations, the Stradale (road) version helped, being built on Alfas normal, Arese production line. Race prepared cars were taken after completion at Arese, to Autodelta, exact specifications of each car built to the order of customers.

The cars engine was a twin-plug highly tuned version of Alfas famous DOHC engine. The head was ported and polished, higher compression pistons, high lift cams, lightened flywheel were fitted and all reciprocating parts were balanced,  increasing power to in excess of 175BHP. An oil cooler and deeper sump aided reliability.

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The engine/bay of the ‘RHD Mildren GTA’ as restored. Philip Island 2013. (Flickr)

A limited slip diff and ‘sliding block’ rear axle locating system was fitted. The standard 5 speed gearbox had a greater range of ratio choices, similarly the diff ratio was ‘to choice’ from homologated alternatives.

Front suspension was modified with adjustable top arms to allow negative camber to drivers choice.

The cars were immediately and immensely successful winning the first round of the European Touring Car Challenge in March 1966. Andrea De Adamich winning the Division 2 Drivers Title and Alfa the European Manufacturers title. In the US Jochen Rindt won the SCCA Trans American Sedan Championship race at Sebring, many championships throughout the world followed.

The GTAm won Alfa’s last championship for the ‘105’, the ETCC Manufacturers Championship in 1971, the cars competitive for a long time with ongoing development.

Arnaldo Tonti, Autodela mechanic attributed the success of the car in ‘Octane’ magazine to ‘… a perfect balance between a very good chassis, with a very low centre of gravity, and a very strong, powerful and reliable engine. The Autodelta sliding block for the rear suspension was a work of art lowering the car and making it quicker and more stable through the corners and giving its characteristic raised front wheel. The engines were capable of 6800/7000 RPM…’

In Australia Mildrens’ LHD car Landed in Mid 1965…

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Bruce Wells shot of Kevin Bartlett at Warwick Farm in 1966, in LHD Mildren GTA

The car was raced in the Sandown 6 Hour race in November 1965 by Alfa factory driver Roberto Businello and Ralph Sach, Businello testing the car at Balacco before it was shipped to Australia. It was a ‘trick’ GTA, very light having an aluminium floor which relatively few had.

It lead the race until lap 99, victory going to Bartlett and Gardner in the Mildren Giulia Super Ti which was also victorious the year before.

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Businello in the GTA, Sandown 6 Hour 1965 (cooper997collection)

Gardner and Bartlett then raced the car in supporting events during the 1966 Tasman Series, Gardner winning outright at Warwick Farm and Sandown and Bartlett first in class at Longford.

‘It was a pleasant car to drive, KB recalled recently. We ran the car at Bathurst, had a win there against Bob Janes’ Mustang on that power circuit. I preferred the LHD car (to the RHD car) as it had the right-hand change which was what i was most familiar with given the sports-car and single-seaters i was racing.

Their was not much difference in the performance of the two cars, although the LHD was a semi-works spec car.

We could knock off the big cars at Warwick Farm but it was much harder at Sandown and the like’.

‘The under 1600cc closest competitors to the GTA were the Mini Coopers who were giving away capacity to us, they were great handling and very quick with the right guys such as Brian Foley and Peter Manton at the wheel’.

‘The LHD was sold as it was getting a little long in the tooth in terms of miles, Alec sold it to a guy named Stephenson in WA’.

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Kevin Bartlett coming off Long Bridge, Tasman meeting, Longford, Tasmania in early 1966 (Ellis French)

Used mainly in State level events the car also contested the Australian Touring Car Championship in 1966, in those days a one race championship. In 1966 the event was held at the Easter Bathurst meeting Bartlett doing well to finish third to the big V8’s of Pete Geoghegan and Norm Beechey in Ford Mustang and Chevy Nova respectively.

The race was run over 20 laps or 75 miles of Mount Panorama, what the GTA lacked in top speed up and down the mountain was largely made up across the top and under brakes.

KB was victorious at Warwick Farm in May and that month also won the Queensland Production Touring Car Cahmpionship at Surfers Paradise. He also took a race win at Lowood, Queensland in June before  the car was sold to Frank Cecchele, a Perth Alfa dealer and raced for him by Gordon Stephenson. It was rolled at Caversham in 1967.

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Wonderful, evocative Caversham shot by Paul Boxsell in 1968. Stephenson in the ‘LHD Mildren GTA’, gridding up with Kitz Kohout and Jeff Dunkerton in Porsche 911S and Mini Cooper S respectively, the rest of the field moving forward out of shot. This was the last year for Caversham. (Paul Boxsell)

‘LHD’ competed regularly in WA state events and the annual 6 Hour race held at Caversham ; ’67 DNF Stephenson, ’68 DNF Stephenson, and at Wanneroo Park ’69 DNF Stephenson/ Cooper,  ’70 7th Ricciardello/Zampatti, ’71 DNF and finally in 1972 4 th outright and 1st in the ‘1600’ class for Ricciardello/Cooper.

The car was all but destroyed at Mt Brown Hillclimb and from the remains Ricciardello built a V8 engined Sports sedan, initially Ford 302 and later Chev 350 powered, Cooper buying the ‘RHD Mildren Alfa’, which he later owned in partnership with Ricciardello.

Current ownership is unknown.

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‘LHD’ , 1966 at Mount Brown Hillclimb out of York where it was in later years all but written off, this was the end of the car in its original form (Allegerita)

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LHD at Caversham in 1967 when raced by Gordon Stephenson (Allegerita)

The Mildren RHD GTA, Chassis # 752 561…

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Brian Foleys’ Cooper S chasing Frank Gardners’ new ‘RHD Mildren GTA’ at Warwick Farm in early 1967…Foley acquired the car 6 years later. This shot a wonderful example of oversteer and understeer respectively! (Bruce Wells)

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RHD in the Surfers Paradise 12 Hours 1967. DNF, KB driving with Doug Chivas, KB has passed the Munyard/Crawford/Calvert Holden FJ!, at rear the winning Scuderia Veloce Ferrari 250LM of Bill Brown/Greg Cusack approaches (Ray Bell)

The LHD chassis number is lost in the mists of time…RHD was built in July 1965 and first raced by Gardner at Warwick Farm in December 1966. He then raced the car in numerous supporting events for the 1967 Tasman Series, winning at Warwick Farm and Longford. Bartlett then took the car over and had wins at Bathurst and Surfers Paradise.

Bartlett again contested the one race 1967 ATCC, that year held at Lakeside, another power circuit, and whilst Pete Geoghegans Mustang won again, this time second and third places were secured by the Cooper S’ of Brian Foley and Peter Manton.

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Bartlett fourth in the 1967 ATCC held at Lakeside, Pete Geoghegan victorious in the one race event (Graham Howard History of the ATCC)

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‘Racing Car News’ Ad for the sale of the RHD GTA, March 1968 edition. The Brabham Intercontinental is a Brabham BT11A Climax…prices are right! (Racing Car News)

The car was sold to John French in Queensland in 1968 who raced the car and continued to develop it until bought by Brian Foley in 1972.

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Mildren RHD GTA further developed by John French in terms of wheel/tyres, roll bar, and engine (Unattributed)

Foley had raced an Alfa GTAm in 1971 in the ATCC , and in 1972 as a Sports Sedan, converted from LHD to RHD and fitted with an Alfa Tipo 33 2.5 litre V8, rather than the 2 litre, twin plug DOHC 4 cylinder engine of this factory GTAm.

The T33 V8 was from Mildrens Brabham and Mildren ‘Yellow Submarine’ single seaters raced by Gardner and Bartlett. I will write about the GTAm separately.

The GTAm was a ‘pork-chop’ compared with the GTA, as it lacked the earlier cars aluminium panels, it was around 200 Kg heavier.

Foley, a Sydney Alfa dealer reasoned a more competitive mount for 1973 would be a lightened and modified GTA , so off to Bowin Designs the car went for major surgery by John Joyce to its suspension, structure, brakes, engine mounting etc. When completed, the car powered by a 16 valve 2 litre Alfa engine developing 225BHP, weighed 636Kg.

See the Bowin Website for ‘P9’ the Foley GTA Project…

http://www.bowincars.org/mediawiki-1.6.12/index.php?title=%28P9%29

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Brian Foley in the RHD Mildren GTA now further developed and lightened by Bowin Designs and raced as a Sports Sedan in 1973. Its very easy to confuse this car with Foleys GTAm which raced in the same livery, and was converted from LHD to RHD when converted to Tipo 33 2.5 V8 in 1973…(autopics)

The car was fast, but V8’s were coming into the category in increasing numbers, so after a prang at Oran Park in late 1973 the car was sold to Peter Brown in Canberra. Foley essentially retired from racing after a fine career.

Brown, an Alfa racer from way back fitted a Mazda Rotary engine then sold the car to Neville Cooper in Western Australia, where all exotic Alfas’ seem to end up! The ‘LHD Mildren GTA’ having been damaged too much in race accidents to continue with it. A Ford V8 was fitted, the car was then sold to Peter Gillon who raced it for two years before being acquired by Ricciardello and Cooper in Partnership.

It was raced very successfully including a win by Cooper in the 1979 Wanneroo 300Km race, the car was always competitive in WA Sports Sedan competition during this period.

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Ultimately the much raced GTA was acquired by a Sydney enthusiast who had owned GTA’s before and was aware of the cars provenance, a long restoration followed, the car is now a regular entry in Historic events across Australia.

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For the Sake of Completeness…

It appears there were two other GTA’s which raced in Australia ‘in period’.

The ‘MW Motors GTA’ was raced by Syd Fisher and Frank Porter for MW who were the Victorian Alfa Distributor, sold to Mario Marasco, who raced the car as a Sports sedan and wrote it off at Hume Weir. It is presumed lost.

The ‘Gulson LHD GTA’ was restored from a ‘fire wreck’ in Western Australia.

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Frank Porter driving the MW Motors GTA at Sandown, Melbourne for a successful challenge on a 12 hour national record attempt in 1968 (Allegerita)

 


 

Etcetera…

 

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Copy of the first page of the long homologation papers for the GTA (Allegerita)

cutaway

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Autodelta factory 1965, GTA’s and a Giulia Super Ti on ‘the line’.Completed cars were delivered from Alfa’s Arese production line and then modified to customer order. (Pinterest)

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Alfas’ test track Balacco, circa 1966. TZ2’s and GTA’s, drivers unknown…(Pinterest)

Etcetera ‘LHD’…

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Roberto Businello in Pit Straight Sandown Park November 1965. The car lead the Sandown 6 Hour for 2.5 hours, retiring at 99 laps (Allegerita)

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The start at Longford 1966. Pete Geoghegan Mustang, Bartlett in ‘LHD’ and Allan Moffat in the Lotus Cortina (Ellis French)

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‘LHD’ at Caversham, WA 1967 (Allegerita)

Etcetera ‘RHD’…

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Kevin Bartlett in ‘RHD’ , Warwick Farm 1966 (Roderick MacKenzie)

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‘RHD’ in Mildren ownership, the old Sandown Paddock circa 1967 (Flickr)

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John French to a large extent made his name in ‘RHD’, here at Lakeside early in his ownership in 1968 (Unattributed)

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John French in ‘RHD’ , Lakeside 1970, sandwiched by two Torana GTR XU1′ s, Dick Johnson in his formative Holden days! on the nearside. (Alfa Bulletin Board)

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Brian Foley in ‘RHD’, Oran Park 1973. This is post Bowin modifications, car has later single headlight ‘1.6 Junior’ front clip rather than early ‘Stepfront’. Very easy to confuse the car with the ex-Foley GTAm which by this stage was in Perth…(Dale Harvey)

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‘RHD’ in Neville Coopers hands, WA. (Wells/Neville Cooper)

 

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Special thanks…Kevin Bartlett

For his recollections of the two cars

Sources and Photo Credits…

The Nostalgia Forum, Alfa Bulletin Board, John Stanley, autopics, Bruce Wells Collection, The Roaring Season, Howard/Wilson ‘History of The ATCC’, peterwindsor.com, Paul Boxsell, Roderick MacKenzie, Neville Cooper Collection, Yen Yoshikawa cutaway, Dale Harvey, Ellis French, Ray Bell, ‘Allegerita’ by Tony Adriaensens

The End…